Treatment approaches: Schema therapy
Schema therapy draws on the best aspects of cognitive behavioural, experiential, interpersonal, and psychoanalytic therapies and integrates them into one unified approach. It was developed to assist individuals with long-standing negative life patterns who do not experience the change and success they hope for from standard short-term treatments like CBT and DBT.
Schemas are enduring themes and self-defeating patterns that typically begin early in life to assist the individual to survive or cope with painful feelings associated from unfulfilled core emotional childhood needs. These pattern are ineffective means of coping with negative thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and memories, and get repeated and elaborated on, thus forming significant barriers to self-identity, accomplishing personal goals, relating to others and getting one’s needs met.
The schema therapy model of treatment is designed to help the person to break these negative patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, which are often very strong and persistent, and to develop healthier alternatives to either cope with or replace them. Schema therapy consists of three stages:
- First is the assessment stage, in which schemas are identified.
- Second is the emotional awareness and experiential stage, when clients get in touch with these schemas and learn how to spot them when they are operating in their day-to-day life.
- Third is the behavioural change stage, during which the client is actively involved in replacing negative, habitual thoughts and behaviours with new, healthy cognitive and behavioural options.