Historically, training, research and practice in counselling and psychotherapy have been dominated by unitary theoretical models. Although integrative and eclectic positions have been developed as alternatives, these have not been successful in generating research and have resulted in a further proliferation of competing models. In this paper we introduce a ‘pluralistic’ framework for counselling and psychotherapy and discuss the implications of this framework for research. The basic principle of this pluralistic framework is that psychological difficulties may have multiple causes and that there is unlikely to be one, ‘right’ therapeutic method that will be appropriate in all situations—different people are helped by different processes at different times. This pluralistic framework operates as a meta-theory within which it is possible to utilise concepts, strategies and specific interventions from a range of therapeutic orientations. The framework is structured around three domains—goals, task and methods—by which therapeutic processes can be conceptualised, critically examined and empirically investigated. These domains, and the relationships between them, are outlined and the collaborative relationship at the heart of the pluralistic framework is discussed. The pluralistic framework provides a means for empirical research directly to inform practice and potential lines of empirical inquiry are outlined, along with findings from a recent study of counselling in schools.