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Schema Therapy


Schema therapy, also called schema-focused therapy, combines elements of cognitive behavioural therapy, object relations, and gestalt therapy into one unified, systematic approach to treatment. It is designed to help individuals to break life-long unhelpful patterns and has been used to address difficulties such as personality disorders, eating disorders, and chronic depression.

Schema therapy is based on the premise that maladaptive beliefs, or schemas, are developed early in life and are repeated throughout life.

Four main concepts in Schema Therapy:

  • Early Maladaptive Schemas
  • Schema Domains
  • Coping Styles
  • Schema Modes

Early Maladaptive Schemas:

Early maladaptive schemas are self-defeating patterns developed in childhood that are repeated throughout life. Schema therapy defines 18 potential schemas.

Schema Domains:

The 18 early maladaptive schema defined above are further grouped into schema domains. These domains relate to the basic emotional needs of the child. If the child’s emotional needs are not met an early maladaptive schema, or beliefs, may develop.

Coping Styles:

Coping styles refers to the ways the child adapts to schemas and to damaging childhood experiences. Not all children cope the same way to stressful or even traumatic events. The theory asserts that there are three general ways that a person copes to the schemas: surrender, avoidance, and overcompensation.

Schema Modes:

Schema modes are the emotional states and coping responses everyone experiences. Things that a person is particularly sensitive to can trigger them. Schema modes may cause a person to overreact or act in ways that may be harmful to him or herself.

The Goals of Schema Therapy:

1. Stop using the maladaptive coping styles (surrender, avoidance, overcompensation) allowing a person to access the core feelings

2. Heal the early maladaptive schemas

3. Learn to turn off the self-defeating schema modes as quickly as possible

4. Get emotional needs in met in everyday life

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