What is involved in Schema Therapy?
In Schema Therapy your psychologist will work with you to recognise your unhelpful Schemas and Coping Modes, understand their origins and how to change them.
By working through a range of techniques and skills your psychologist will help you to identify the origins of your schemas, help to restructure your maladaptive patterns of thinking (cognitive restructuring), help you to express and process emotions that have stayed “stuck” (emotion-focused techniques) through various experiential exercises (including “chair work”, “parts” work, limited re-parenting, “float-back” exercises, schema “flashcards” and imagery re-scripting).
What is a Schema (or ‘Lifetrap’)?
A Schema is a pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that starts in childhood and usually continues on throughout life. Not all schemas are unhelpful, but some of them are. An unhelpful or maladaptive Schema is sometimes called a “Lifetrap”. Lifetraps begin when our families, other children or other significant people in our lives have done something or hurt us in some way. For example, criticised, overprotected, excluded or deprived us in some way.
What are “Maladaptive Coping Modes”?
Coping modes are developed in response to the schemas as a way to meet your unmet needs. Some of these coping modes can be maladaptive (unhelpful) and can therefore lead to further distress.
Identifying and working toward changing these unhelpful coping modes is central to the schema therapy work you will do with your therapist.
What do we all need to thrive?
We all have certain core needs for basic safety, connection to others, autonomy, self-esteem, self-expression and realistic limits. It is when there are serious shortfalls in meeting these core needs in childhood that problems may develop. These shortfalls are what we refer to as “lifetraps”.
What are the steps involved in changing our Schemas?
- Label and identify your Lifetraps
- Understand the childhood origins of your Lifetraps
- Build a case against your Lifetrap and disprove its validity
- Write letters to the person who helped cause the Lifetrap
- Examine the Lifetrap pattern in careful detail
- Pattern-breaking (i.e. through chair work, parts work, limited reparenting and imagery rescripting exercises)
- Keep trying!
- Forgiving (yourself and others)
How long is a typical Schema Therapy program?
Schema Therapy is a long-term therapy (usually 12-24 months) with regular contact (weekly or fortnightly sessions is ideal), although modifications can be made to this schedule to suit the client’s needs.
Who is Schema Therapy helpful for?
Schema Therapy may be helpful for you if:
- You already tried traditional CBT and have not had success.
- You have tools and skills to manage your symptoms but want to go a bit deeper in your therapy treatment.
- You feel that you are already pretty good at changing your thoughts about a situation but your feelings are still “stuck”.
- You have been diagnosed with a personality disorder or Complex PTSD.
- You don’t like traditional talk therapy and want to explore some experiential techniques instead.
Please note that Kerry also has training in DBT, which can be very complementary to your Schema Therapy work and she can offer you both therapy modalities, concurrently. Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy (“parts” work) is also complementary to Schema Therapy and Kerry has a good understanding of this modality.
If you are interested in learning more about Schema Therapy, please contact us to discuss your support needs and arrange a consultation.