Schema Therapy



Schema Therapy is an integrative treatment consisting of various models in one. The patients who are recommended for the therapy display maladaptive patterns. Psychoanalytic, Interpersonal, Experiential and Cognitive-behavioral therapies are all tied into Schema treatment. Dr. Young created the model and first treated those who had a difficult time benefitting from the standard behavioral sessions. The patients who found progress in this therapy held feelings that required a unique and combined approach. The "patterns" that the patients possess were defined as Schemas, which is the focus of treatment.  These are self defeating patterns that consist of negative thoughts and destructive behavior. The model recognizes the formation of schemas in the patient and how a new pattern of thinking can replace the negative one.

Goals of Schema Therapy

The Schema-Focused model was built to help patients deny their behavior pattern and embrace one that is more beneficial to their health and relationships. The treatment allows a client to embrace new feelings and behaviors that are beneficial to their mental and physical health. When the unsatisfactory patterns of thinking are replaced the clients find relief in the new social interactions they have with others and in life situations. The various therapies implemented allow the patient to recognize their self destructive thought patterns, understand them and reverse them by adopting new strategies which are illustrated by the therapist. With new habitual thoughts the patient will experience relief from unhealthy behavior.

When is Schema Therapy Used?

Treatment is used on clients who went through a traumatic childhood experience which in turn created a systematic way of processing information. These clients may have a childlike temperament which could be a result of the cultural influences that were present in their lives. There are three elements that contribute to schemas: When the patient was a child they may have not had their core needs fulfilled or received affection from a parent or guardian. If the patient was abused and raised by a critical parent it could have resulted in the schema. If the patient was overprotected as a child or was given too much of something it may have created this pattern. Their behavior is the direct reflection of what happened to them during childhood development. The patient displays distorted thinking and feelings that become reinforced and difficult to break over time.

How Schema Therapy Works

There are three stages of Schema-Focused Therapy. The first stage takes place when the counselor performs an assessment on the client and identifies what their thought process is the result of. The counselor may use a questionnaire for analytics. After the data has been looked at in detail the session offers an experiential phase. The patient will get in touch with the schema patterns by learning how to acknowledge them when they begin to arise. Lastly, the behavior of the patient begins to change. They will remain focused and replace some of their negative habits with new healthy behaviors.

It's common that these schemas are difficult to change because they haven't been stored in the logic of the individual - but the Amygdala, which makes it challenging to reverse. Therapy is always needed in getting rid of these patterns of processing information. If the therapy is schema-focused it addresses the psychological and behavioral problems within the client. The therapist displays personal functioning to them and makes them realize that these habits can be either contributive or dysfunctional depending on the style of their personality. There are early maladaptive patterns that are also linked to the client's self concept and current environment. When schemas are in their early stages it takes less time to recognize the behavior and create a new pattern.

The counselor ensures that the client surrenders their schema, avoids it and overcompensates for it with new behaviors. When the patient is surrendering to the activity they will begin to change things in their lives that allow the pattern to continue. It's important to avoid situations that can contribute to this way of thinking. Outside of the session it is the duty of the client to stay away from anything that can trigger the behavior. When they have reached the schema avoidance stage the client must remove themselves from anything that promotes negative thinking. By overcompensating for the change they can do the opposite of what that the destructive pattern wants them to do. Treatment is designed exclusively to help all clients break an unhealthy behavior so that they can meet the needs of their core being.

Criticisms of Schema Therapy

There are health critics who have argued that the approach may underestimate the treatment because it focuses on immediate change in a patient and disregards the change in schema in later sessions. Some have pointed out that Schema Therapy could delay symptomatic relief.


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Schema therapy training. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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