Schema Therapy

Schema TherapySchema Therapy is a powerful new form of treatment that integrates cognitive-behavioural, experiential, interpersonal and psychoanalytic approaches.

It was developed by Dr Jeffrey Young while treating clients at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania.

What is a Schema?

A schema is an enduring thought pattern that your mind uses to quickly organize and interpret information. Schemas can be useful when they help us to do quite complex things like driving for instance. While driving is hard at first most people find it becomes easier with experience.  That is because a schema takes over much of the mental work needed for driving.  But, these mental frameworks can also be bad, causing emotional pain and upset that can last a lifetime unless something is done.

Schemas usually develop early in life (during childhood or adolescence), they can also form in adulthood. They are tenacious and are perpetuated by being triggered, and causing bad feelings and bad outcomes, repeatedly during everyday life.  Schema therapy is designed to help break these negative patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving and develop healthier alternatives to replace them.

Who is Schema Therapy for?

The therapy is targeted at a people who have had difficulty in benefiting from other approaches; people who are trapped by long-standing patterns of dysfunctional thinking, feeling and behaving/coping. This treatment has been shown to be effective in helping people to change negative life patterns which have caused them distress for a long time.  This treatment has proven successful even when other methods and efforts have been unsuccessful.

What does Schema Therapy focus on?

Schemas targeted in schema therapy treatment are the enduring and self-defeating patterns.  They consist of negative/dysfunctional thoughts and feelings that have been repeated and elaborated upon for a long time. Some examples of schema beliefs are: “I’m unlovable,” “I’m a failure,” “People don’t care about me,” “I’m not important,” “Something bad is going to happen,” “People will leave me,” “I will never get my needs met,” “I will never be good enough,” and so on.

How does Schema Therapy proceed?

Schema Therapy consists of three stages. In the assessment stage schemas are identified during initial sessions. Questionnaires may be used to get a clear picture of the various patterns involved. Next, in the emotional awareness and experiential phase, clients get in touch with their schemas and learn how to spot them when they are operating in their day-to-day life. Finally, in the behaviour change stage, the client is replaces negative, habitual thoughts and behaviours with new, healthy options.

Dr Malcolm Davies Learning At WorkAuthor: Dr Malcolm Davies, B.Psych.(Hons), M.Psych (Clin), Dip. Clin. Hypnosis, PhD, MASH.

Dr Malcolm Davies is a registered senior psychologist who holds honours, masters and doctoral degrees in psychology.