What is Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy is designed to help individuals change limiting life patterns and get their core needs met in a helpful way 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). It draws on and integrates a range of theoretical approaches including attachment theory and Gestalt Therapy. It 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.

A schema is a pattern or theme that starts in childhood and repeats 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. Schema therapy is a structured therapy and focuses on identifying and working with schemas that are unhelpful to us. Examples of unhelpful schemas include Emotional Deprivation, Social Exclusion or Mistrust. Eighteen unhelpful schemas have been identified and they are often self destructive and fight for survival. While unhelpful schemas frequently have an adaptive role in childhood, by adulthood these schemas are typically inaccurate and limiting. For example, if an individual has an abandonment schema, they tend to believe that relationships will never last and they are destined to be alone and can find close intimate relationships difficult as they may worry the person is going to leave them. Alternatively, someone with an unrelenting standards schema may feel permanently under pressure to achieve and push themselves to be perfect in everything they do often at the expense of their health, wellbeing and relationships.

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 meet their needs in a fair and appropriate way.

For some people it is helpful to not only identify their schemas during the course of therapy but also look at schema modes. A schema mode is a part of oneself that is active at any one time. This can be a particularly helpful approach for people who find their personality can be changeable depending on what they are feeling, thinking, and doing.

Individual Schema Therapy

As with all therapy, an initial assessment is required to determine whether this is the right therapy for you. We will then work with you to identify your most prominent schemas.

As with any therapy, the therapeutic relationship plays an important role in schema therapy and therefore, it will be important that you find a therapist with whom you feel you can work well. All the Schema Therapists within the clinic have received Schema Therapy Training and supervision recognised by the International Society for Schema Therapy (ISST).

Schema therapy may be of longer duration due to the enduring nature of these beliefs.