What is Schema Therapy?
Schema therapy is an evidence-based, integrative approach that blends cognitive, behavioural and experiential techniques.
Schema therapy focuses on helping us make sense of the different ways we have learned to adapt and cope with situations throughout our life. And it provides the space for us to take a step back and examine which of these coping styles we’d like to take forward with us – and in turn, which we’d like to leave behind.
What are schemas in psychology?
A schema is perhaps best described as a blueprint through which we see ourselves, other people and the world around us. Schemas are usually formed in childhood in response to the way we grew up – especially if our emotional needs were not met as a child.
For example, if we were neglected, abandoned in some way or criticised a lot growing up, we’re likely to grow up with a distorted belief system about ourselves, other people or the world in general. We might develop schemas that tell us we’re not “good enough”, that people will always leave us or that our value is only wrapped up in our achievements. Because we believe these things to be true, we then behave in ways as if they are true, thus reinforcing the schema and our own belief in it. This is how we can get stuck in unhelpful recurring patterns in life.
Schema therapy focuses on helping you identify your schemas and find ways to change these unhelpful patterns so that you can break the cycle once and for all.
There is a good evidence-base for schema therapy in a range of conditions including eating disorders, personality disorders, substance misuse, anxiety and depression. That said, you do not need to have a mental health diagnosis to be able to benefit from schema therapy. This approach provides a really helpful way that we can all use to start deepen our understanding of ourselves and how we are in our relationships.
What does schema therapy treat?
Schema therapy can be a great next step for you if you relate to any of the following:
- I keep repeating problematic patterns in relationships and I don’t understand why
- I am interested in learning more about myself, self-development and want to change my relationship to myself and others
- I am still impacted by things that have happened to me in my childhood and past and can feel triggered in the here and now
- I often use ways to cope that are detrimental to my long-term goals, e.g. eating, smoking, drinking, binge-watching TV etc
- I seem to go through life on autopilot and have difficulties understanding my own feelings or what I really need
- I struggle with being in social situations, often feeling different, not good enough or as though I do not belong
- I have struggled with the loneliness and isolation during lockdown in ways that have surprised me or brought up painful feelings from the past
We offer schema therapy both individually and also in a group format.
Frequently asked questions
Schema therapy is a versatile and transdiagnostic approach to therapy so it can be offered for a wide variety of difficulties. We will usually recommend schema therapy if your difficulties have been around throughout your life and we believe they are the consequence of your earlier experiences. As a longer term approach, we are also likely to offer schema therapy if we make the judgement that a more short-term approach, such as CBT, will not be sufficient to treat your difficulties.
Both schema therapy and CAT are approaches to therapy that try to address patterns in relationships and any unhelpful choices – or behaviours – that are keeping you feeling stuck. We will recommend schema therapy if we make the judgement that you need a longer term approach to therapy and direct support for changing patterns. This is because CAT can offer an understanding of any recurring patterns in your life but it focuses less on helping you break them in the same way that schema therapy does.
Schema therapy is a long-term therapeutic model. As a starting point, you can expect your therapy to last anywhere from 6 months to a year.