Schema therapy is an integrative approach unifying elements from cognitive behavioural, psychodynamic (object relations), Gestalt and attachment schools. People who benefit from schema therapy often experience a variety of maladaptive patterns that are usually persistent over the years. The focus on human needs is central in schema therapy. When the normal, healthy developmental needs are not met, maladaptive schemas develop.
Maladaptive schemas are psychological constructs that include beliefs about oneself, the world and other people. They develop as a result of unmet childhood needs, innate temperament and toxic childhood experiences. When maladaptive schemas are activated intense states occur, called modes. In other words, a mode is the current state of the individual. Schemas and modes originate in childhood and are activated throughout adult life resulting in a stable view of oneself and the world that is inaccurate, dysfunctional and limiting.
The goals of Schema Therapy are:
- Decrease the intensity of schemas or heal the schemas
- Develop one’s compassionate healthy adult so that the individual can manage effectively the modes that get triggered in different situations
- Learn to care for one’s own emotional needs in an effective way
- Break maladaptive dysfunctional patterns and build healthier relationships with oneself and the world.
These goals are accomplished through a variety of cognitive, experiential and behavioural techniques. Two strategies differentiate the nature of the therapeutic relationship in schema therapy: empathic confrontation and limited reparenting. Schema Therapists show empathy for the underlying schemas and modes, make connections with harmful childhood experiences and at the same time encourage clients to develop healthier ways of relating to oneself and others (empathic confrontation). Furthermore, Schema Therapists are trained to respond to clients’ needs in a personal and transparent way avoiding taking the distant role of a therapist (limited reparenting). Schema Therapy is well-liked by both patients and therapists.