Schema Focused Therapy In Surrey | Face-To-Face Or Online
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Schema Therapy

Schema Therapy


We offer schema-focused therapy in clinics in Petersfield, Haywards Heath, Portsmouth and online. In the video opposite Dr Olivia Thrift explains the benefits of Schema Therapy.

What Is Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy was developed by Dr Jeff Young and can be a very helpful approach for people seeking emotional and behavioural change. Schema therapy is an integrative therapy meaning it draws upon a range of models including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Attachment theory, Psychodrama and Chair Work. It places a strong emphasis on early emotional experiences and unmet needs. Understanding the influence of childhood experiences is given more prominence in schema therapy than traditional CBT and as a result can help people understand the early origins of their difficulties. However Schema Therapy, like CBT, also focuses on thoughts and behaviours. 


What is a Schema?

It is called schema therapy as traditionally the emphasis in this approach was on identifying and understanding our schemas-which are patterns or themes that start in childhood and repeat throughout life and influences the way we feel, think and behave. 


Everyone has schemas and they develop as a result of the interaction between our temperament and our experiences-especially in our formative years. So you might be someone who is temperamentally sensitive and empathic and values close connection but grew up in a family who were practically supportive but emotionally distant. Your temperament and early experience of emotional detachment may have led you to develop an emotional deprivation schema where you feel people aren’t really there for you in a meaningful or supportive way. If people haven’t shown up for you in a supportive way in your childhood then this schema developed as a way to help you navigate the complex world of relationships and make life a little more predictable. However as we arrive in adulthood our schemas have often started to come with some negative unintended consequences, such as never letting ourselves get really close to anyone and then feeling lonely. 


Schemas often develop in childhood and don’t easily get updated so we can get stuck being triggered by things that belong more to our past than our present life. So whilst our schemas develop to try and help us make sense and cope with the world we were living in they can become unhelpful in adulthood where they may no longer be serving us well. 


In schema therapy, there are five domains that are used to categorize schemas;

Disconnection and Rejection

Impaired Autonomy and Performance

Impaired Limits


Overvigilance and Inhibition


Each domain represents a core emotional need that was not met during childhood. When these needs are not met, schemas develop that can lead to unhealthy life patterns.


Disconnection and Rejection

This domain includes schemas related to a lack of safety, security, and belonging. People with schemas in this domain may feel like they can’t rely on others, that they’re always in danger, or that they’re not good enough.


Impaired Autonomy and Performance

This domain includes schemas related to a lack of self-confidence, self-efficacy, and a sense of control over one’s life. People with schemas in this domain may feel like they’re incompetent, helpless, or that they can’t do anything right.


Impaired Limits

This domain includes schemas related to a lack of boundaries, a sense of entitlement, and a need for control. People with schemas in this domain may have difficulty saying no, may be overly responsible, or may take on too much.



This domain includes schemas related to a need for approval, a lack of self-identity, and a focus on others’ needs. People with schemas in this domain may put others’ needs before their own, may be overly compliant, or may have difficulty asserting themselves.


Overvigilance and Inhibition

This domain includes schemas related to a need to be hyper-vigilant, a fear of making mistakes, and a lack of spontaneity. People with schemas in this domain may be overly cautious, may have difficulty relaxing, or may be afraid to take risks.


In schema therapy you will identify the particular schemas that are playing out in your life, understand how they once served you well and work towards reducing the grip these have on your life.


What is a Mode?

As Schema Therapy developed the model expanded and schema therapists started working with modes as well as schemas. The schema mode model recognises the multiplicity nature of human beings and how we all have many different parts of us. 


A schema mode is simply a part of oneself that is active at any one time. It is a temporary state of mind that is characterized by a specific set of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Schema modes are thought to develop in childhood as a way of coping with negative experiences. They can become unhelpful if they are not addressed.  


The different parts of us can sometimes get triggered in quick succession (something we call mode flipping) and we can also get stuck in a mode and find it hard to move out of it. In schema therapy we will work with you to develop a mode map-which is a way of identifying and tracking the different modes that might get triggered for you. We also work with you to understand the origins of your modes and to reduce the power of the unhelpful modes.


There are four main types of schema modes:


  1. Child modes: 

These modes reflect the emotional needs and vulnerabilities you experienced growing up. Here are a couple of examples;

Abandoned Child mode: This mode is characterised by feelings of loneliness, sadness, and abandonment. In this mode you may feel like you are all alone in the world and that no one cares about you. You may also have difficulty trusting others and may be afraid of getting close to people.

Angry Child mode: This mode is characterised by feelings of anger, rage, and resentment. In this mode you may lash out at others or withdraw from them. You may also have difficulty managing your anger and may be prone to outbursts. Other people may express their anger in passive aggressive ways. 


  1. Coping modes: 

These modes are used to avoid or escape from the negative emotions associated with a schema. Here are a couple of examples;

Overcompensating Self-Aggrandizer mode: This mode is characterised by feelings of superiority, arrogance, and entitlement. In this mode you may try to prove yourself to others and may be overly competitive. You may also have difficulty accepting criticism and may be defensive.

Detached Self-Soother mode: This mode is characterised by avoiding or escaping from painful emotions. In this mode you may use substances, such as alcohol or drugs, binge eat or engage in other activities, such as work, shopping, sex or gaming, to numb yourself from your emotions. You may also withdraw from social contact and isolate yourself. If you have a strong detached self-soother mode you may experience emotional numbing whereby you feel disconnected from your emotions and may even have difficulty feeling anything at all.


  1. Critic modes: 

These modes are internalised critical voices that reflect the negative messages that you may have received growing up either from caregivers, significant others or peers. Below is an explanation of the three critic modes we work with in schema therapy:

Punitive Critic mode: This mode is characterised by feelings of anger, criticism, and judgment. In this mode you may be critical of yourself and others. You may be harsh and unforgiving.

Demanding Critic mode; This mode is characterised by valuing accomplishments and achievement above everything else. You may have high/unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, and a critical attitude. In this mode you may feel intense pressure as you are constantly striving to improve yourself whether this be your career, your home, your relationships, your looks, your health/fitness. If you have a strong demanding critic mode you may feel like you are never good enough, and may be constantly pushing yourself to achieve more. 

The Guilt-Inducing Critic mode: This mode is characterised by feelings of guilt, shame, and obligation. You may feel like you are always to blame for things that go wrong, and may have a hard time setting boundaries or saying no to others. The guilt-inducing critic mode can make you feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You may feel guilty for taking time for yourself, or for doing things that make you happy. You may believe that you should always be putting others first, and that you don’t deserve to take care of yourself. You may also have a hard time saying no to others, even when you don’t want to do something. You may feel like you have to say yes, or else you will disappoint the other person.

The critic modes can be a very destructive force in your life. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It can also make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships. 


  1. Healthy Modes

The Healthy Adult mode: 

This mode is characterised by feelings of calmness, self-compassion, and strength. In this mode you are able to think clearly, make healthy choices, hold healthy boundaries and take care of yourself in a warm and compassionate way.

The Happy Child mode:

The Happy Child Mode is characterised by feelings of joy, playfulness, and creativity. If you have a strong Happy Child Mode you are able to enjoy life and experience positive emotions.  You may find pleasure in simple things, such as spending time with loved ones, doing activities you enjoy, or simply being in nature. You may be playful and spontaneous and may enjoy trying new things.You may be creative and expressive and enjoy art, music, writing, or other forms of self-expression.

The Healthy Adult and Happy Child modes are an important part of emotional well-being. They can help you to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also help you to build strong relationships and live a fulfilling life. In Schema Therapy we look to strengthen both of these modes and reduce the modes that are causing suffering.


Schema therapy and the Importance of Childhood Emotional Needs

Schemas and modes tend to develop when core childhood needs have not been met and schema therapy places a lot of emphasis on helping you identify and heal from these unmet needs.


In schema therapy, unmet needs are the emotional and psychological needs that were not met adequately enough during childhood. This does not necessarily mean we were abused or traumatised- sometimes it is what didn’t happen that should have that can impact us. Furthermore even those of us lucky enough to grow up in loving families can have unmet needs. 


Below is a list of the five core emotional needs we explore in schema therapy:


1.Attachment: The need to feel loved, accepted, and cared for. If your need for attachment was not met, for example you grew up in a family who were emotionally distant, you may struggle with intimacy and trust in relationships as an adult.


2.Autonomy: The need to feel independent and in control of one’s own life. If your need for autonomy was not met, for example you had very strict parents who had specific expectations of you you may have difficulty knowing what you like or dislike and you may struggle with asserting yourself or making decisions as an adult.


3.Competence: The need to feel capable and successful. If your need for competence was not met, for example you were not given encouragement, guidance, and/or support to do well at school or develop mastery in your hobbies, you may have low self-esteem or a fear of failure as an adult.


4.Connection: The need to feel connected to others and to feel like a part of something. If your need for connection was not met, for example you felt you did not really belong or fit in then you may feel isolated or lonely as an adult.


5.Play and Spontaneity: The need to have fun, laugh and be carefree. If your need for play and spontaneity was not met, for example your family were very serious, thought play was silly or were dealing with loss or trauma then you may struggle to have a sense of playfulness in your adult life.


Schema therapy is a type of therapy that helps people to identify and address their unmet needs. By understanding the origins of their schemas and modes and learning to meet their needs in a healthy way, people can begin to heal and move towards a more fulfilling life.


How Can Schema Therapy help?


Schema Therapy is particularly well-suited to people with longstanding and/or difficulties that may not have been helped by previous therapy, as well as those who struggle to manage and regulate their emotions. It is also effective for relapse prevention in depression, anxiety and substance abuse. 


Schema therapy can help people in a number of ways, including:


Understanding: Schema therapy can help people to understand the origins of their schemas and modes. By understanding how these developed, people can start to be more compassionate and less judgemental of themselves and strengthen healthy schemas and modes.


Coping: Schema therapy can help people to develop healthier coping mechanisms for dealing with their emotions. This can help them to feel more in control of their lives and less overwhelmed by their emotions.


Reparenting: Schema therapy can help people to reparent themselves. This involves learning to nurture and care for themselves in the way that they may not have received as a child.


Limit setting: Schema therapy can help people to learn to set limits for themselves and others. This can help them to protect themselves from being overwhelmed by their emotions and from being taken advantage of by others.


Skill building: Schema therapy can help people to develop new skills, such as assertiveness, problem-solving, and emotional regulation. These skills can help them to cope with their emotions in a healthy way and to build better relationships.


Here are some of the potential benefits of schema therapy:


Reduces symptoms: Schema therapy can help to reduce symptoms of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders.


Improves relationships: Schema therapy can help to improve relationships with others by helping people to understand and express their emotions in a healthy way.


Increases self-esteem: Schema therapy can help to increase self-esteem by helping people to develop more positive beliefs about themselves.


Improves quality of life: Schema therapy can help to improve the quality of life by helping people to feel more in control of their lives and to experience more positive emotions.


Schema therapy is  typically a longer term therapy although we also offer time limited Schema Therapy.

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