Schema therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy that is effective when individuals suffer from long standing difficulties with anxiety, depression and relationship difficulties. The concept of a ‘schema’ is used to describe a blueprint that the individual has developed about themselves, the world and other people and which are often at the core of their emotional difficulties.
In schema therapy, the main focus of the therapeutic work is to identify core schemas and how they might have contributed to maladaptive patterns that are present in the person’s life and which prevent them from having a meaningful life and meaningful relationships. Some of the core schemas that this therapy focuses on are ones of abandonment, defectiveness, emotional deprivation, mistrust and social isolation.
Another term used in schema therapy is ‘modes’ which are defined as self states or parts of the self that might often not be integrated. When working with modes in schema therapy the therapist tries to understand how a frustration of childhood needs might have led the person to develop a range of coping modes to survive and manage their experience which might be preventing them from leading a fulfilling life and having meaningful relationships.
Schema therapy developed for individuals who might not benefit from traditional CBT due to the more ongoing nature of their difficulties. Schema therapy is an evidence based approach and is particularly effective in the treatment of personality disorders. It is an integrative approach that blends cognitive, behavioural and experiential techniques. The therapeutic relationship in schema therapy is one of limited re-parenting in that the therapist tries to offer an antidote to the client’s early experiences by tailoring the relationship to help them get their unmet needs met.
What can I expect if I receive schema therapy
- Your therapist will give you various questionnaires to complete to formulate your early maladaptive schemas and modes.
- You and your therapist will develop a shared understanding of your difficulties called a case conceptualisation.
- You and your therapist are likely to form a close bond.
- The therapy tends to be of medium to long term duration often ranging from six months to two years.