Schema Therapy

What is Schema?

Schema therapy combines elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), object relations and gestalt therapy. A schema is a strongly held belief that an individual may have about themselves, the world, or others around them. Schemas are typically formed early in life, and can lead to life-long, unhelpful patterns that are repeated throughout life. Schema therapy is designed to assist individuals to identify and break these patterns, and has been shown to be effective at addressing difficulties such as personality disorders, eating disorders and chronic depression.

There are four main concepts in Schema therapy:

  • Early maladaptive schemas: This refers to self-defeating patterns developed in childhood that are repeaterd throughout life. Schema therapy identifies 18 potential schemas. For more information, follow this link:
  • Schema domains: Each early maladaptive schema is grouped into different domains, based on the basic emotional needs of a child. If the child’s emotional needs are not met, an early maladaptive schema may develop.
  • Coping styles: This is the way that an individual adapts to schemas, or damaging childhood experiences. While everyone adapts in a way that proves protective for them, there are generally three coping styles: Surrender, avoidance and overcompensation.
  • Schema modes: These are emotional states and coping responses that everyone experiences. Schema modes may cause a person to overreact or act in a way that is harmful to themselves.

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

How is treatment structured?

Treatment often utilises a variety of techniques in order to achieve the goals listed above. This may include traditional CBT-based strategies (such as thought monitoring or challenging) and imagery-based approaches to rescript any past events.