Schema therapy was originally developed for people living with personality disorders, chronic depression and other difficult situations. It combines aspects of cognitive and behaviour therapy with object relations and gestalt therapy and, sometimes, with mindfulness practice. Today, schema therapy is offered to patients with a wide range of issues.
Whereas cognitive behavioural therapy per se is based on learning ways to change how we react and behave, schema therapy has a stronger focus on understanding how our experiences in early childhood have led to the behavioural patterns that we display today.
Schema therapy is predicated on four primary concepts:
Early Maladaptive Schemas, which are behavioural patterns that we tend to repeat over and over again throughout our lives, even though they are self-defeating and unhelpful. These schemas spring from emotional needs that were not met during our childhood or adolescence.
Core Emotional Needs that were not satisfied when we were children, which give rise to unhelpful schemas and ways of coping. For example, a child whose needs around reciprocity are unmet, perhaps because of a cold or absent parent, is likely to grow up to develop anxieties and associated behaviours in this area.
Schema Modes are temporary emotional states and ways of coping with the things that happen in our lives, especially situations that we are very sensitive to because of the experiences we have had in our lives. Many of us overreact to particular situations, or even respond in ways that are damaging to us.
Maladaptive Coping Styles are the ways in which we adapted as children to difficult experiences. For instance, some children find ways to avoid pain, and others fight against the situation or overcompensate in various ways. These learned behaviours are perpetuated into adulthood, and are often very damaging.
Through therapy, patients work to identify their core emotional needs and to combat their maladaptive coping styles and behavioural patterns to become healthy adults (in what is known as Healthy Adult Mode) so that they can have their core emotional needs met in the course of their daily lives.
Depending on the patient’s needs, various techniques can be used during the course of schema therapy. These include the use of guided imagery, in which the patient is asked to recall difficult childhood memories about their relationship with important people in their lives, and to figure out which situations in their lives today tend to be associated with the same feelings, and the use of a schema diary, which can help the patient to keep track of their experience between treatment sessions.
Over time, the patient gains an enhanced understanding of why they feel and react as they do, and can work with their therapist to switch unhelpful behavioural patterns to helpful ones.
If you would like to talk to someone about having schema therapy in London, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 38871738 or book online by clicking below.
We are based in London but also treat anyone via phone or Skype.