Schema therapy assists individuals identify the thought and behavior patterns creating predisposition and perpetuating mental health conditions. The treatment approach is integration of elements from attachment theory, cognitive behavioral therapy, and a number of other approaches, expanding on CBT through maladaptive coping methods, exploration of emotions, and the origin of mental health concerns.
What to expect?
When emotional needs like one’s basic needs for affection, love, guidance, shelter, and safety, is unmet in childhood, individuals might enter adulthood with deficits in their capabilities to find out ways for these needs to be met, independently and through healthy relationships with others. Schema therapy is founded on the belief that early maladaptive schemas formed from adverse childhood experiences. These maladaptive schemas, which individuals interprets from life events and the behavior of others, can disrupt well-being of an individual. For instance, Individuals may make unhealthy choices, get into toxic relationships, have poor social skills, opt destructive behavior patterns, develop a poor sense of judgment, and frequently experience feelings of worthlessness or self-doubt.
How does it work?
Therapeutic techniques used in Schema therapies are as follows:
- Flash cards: In schema therapy, clients are often asked by the therapist to create messages designed for the caregivers who failed to meet their childhood emotional needs. These messages can be written in simple statements, notes, or even take the form of complex poems.
- Imagery: This technique involves people in therapy exploring upsetting childhood memories in an attempt to understand the development of maladaptive schemas. Soon, after this process, individuals often are able to identify the current situations eliciting similar emotions and can also find success at getting needs met in healthy ways in future situations.
- Diaries: People pursuing schema therapy are often asked to maintain a diary or log book of any experiences activating early maladaptive schemas, like in CBT. In the process of treatment, individuals identify the thinking patterns associated with these schemas. When these thinking patterns occur between sessions, the diary acts as record book for the individual’s situations, feelings, and behaviors. These diaries might be reviewed in session and can help to determine methods of devising new ways of meeting emotional needs as well as situations in which these methods may be best applied.
- Chair work: In chair work, a person might utter statements regarding emotional needs while sitting in one chair and then move to another chair to play the role of a person who according to the client was supposed to meet these emotional needs. This is some what alike to role playing. Imagery work is often conducted in along with with chair work.
When is it used?
Studies conducted on schema therapy show this type of therapy is often effective for clients suffering from problems like: Eating disorders, Posttraumatic stress, Criminal behavior, Personality disorders, Anxiety, Relationship issues, Substance abuse and chronic depression.
Role of therapist:
Mental health professionals work with clients seeking treatment to dig out the origins of any unmet emotional needs. Through schema therapy, people often turn out as better able to develop a greater sense of self-worth and adequacy, they explore methods of constructing and nurturing relationships, developing and achieving goals to work toward a healthy and happy life experience.
Farrell, J. (2013, August 12). 2014-2015 ISST Certification Requirements as an Individual Schema Therapist.
Training, certification and supervision (n.d.). The International Society of Schema Therapy.
Therapeutic techniques (n.d.). The International Society of Schema Therapy
Young, J. E., Klosko, J. S., and Weishaar, M. E. (2006). Schema Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide.