What is Schema Therapy
Schema therapy is designed to help people change limiting life patterns in order to create a satisfying and fulfilling life. Schema therapy was developed by Dr Jeffrey Young and colleagues and grew from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) but draws on and integrates a range of theoretical approaches and works more at an emotional level not just a cognitive/thinking level. Schema therapy can help people with longstanding difficulties who either do not respond to traditional CBT or who have experienced relapses or recurrent problems.
Schema therapy places a strong emphasis on emotional experiences but also focuses on thoughts and behaviours. Understanding the influence of childhood experiences is given more prominence in schema therapy than standard CBT. As a result, schema therapy can help people understand the childhood origins of their difficulties and to recognise how unhelpful patterns have been repeated and perhaps continue to unhelpfully dominate their life.
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 starts in childhood and repeat throughout life and influences the way we feel, think and behave. Everyone has schemas concerning themselves, other people and the world around them and we can have both helpful and unhelpful schemas. Examples of unhelpful schemas include Abandonment (where we might believe other people will be quick to reject us leaving us with a sense of insecurity, fear, loneliness and sometimes anger especially in our intimate relationships), Social Exclusion (feeling isolated and different from those around us) and Unrelenting Standards (where we may feel pressure to achieve and strive for perfection in most areas of our life). Eighteen unhelpful schemas have been identified and they are often self-destructive and fight for survival. Schemas tend to develop when core childhood needs have not been met and schema therapy can help people tune into their own needs and help them find ways of getting these met.
For people who struggle to have a stable sense of self (e.g. feel very different from one day or week to the next) it can be helpful to not only identify schemas during the course of therapy but also look at schema modes which was a later development in schema therapy. A schema mode is simply a part of oneself that is active at any one time (e.g. at any one time we might feel very sad and insecure, we could be self attacking or we might be trying to ignore/avoid our problems through distraction) and in schema therapy we may work with you to develop a mode map-which is a way of identifying and tracking the different modes that might get triggered for us. We also work with you to understand the origins of your modes and to reduce the power of the unhelpful modes.
How can Schema Therapy help?
Schema Focused 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 with a diagnosis or traits of personality disorder, eating disorders and interpersonal difficulties. It is also effective for relapse prevention in depression, anxiety and substance abuse. It s typically a longer term therapy although many of the Psychologists in the practice have also done training in time limited Schema Therapy.