woman in a schema therapy session

What Is Schema Therapy, And Will It Help You?

If other types of therapy haven’t worked for you, then Schema Therapy (ST) might be a good option to consider. It is an integrative therapy designed for those who need to work on deeper issues and ingrained thoughts and behaviour.

ST might not be your first choice when choosing a therapy, but it is excellent for those who have tried cognitive behavioural therapy and found it lacking. It integrates elements; it uses CBT, Gestalt, Psychoanalysis, Attachment Theory and Developmental Theory.

You may have developed thoughts and behaviours which stem from childhood that are harmful; these are called maladaptive schematic beliefs. When you work with a Schema Therapist, they will help you uncover the root cause and why you have learned potentially negative coping skills.

What Is Schema Therapy?

what is schema therapy, a therapy setting

ST was developed by Dr Jeffrey Young back in the ’80s. He thought cognitive behavioural therapy was lacking in certain areas, especially for people whose character was severely affected by their learnt behaviour and coping mechanisms.

If your emotional needs were not met when you were a child, then Schema Therapy could be helpful. It works by trying to reduce the harmful coping mechanisms which may form a blockade within personal relationships. The positive behaviours of the personality are highlighted and bought to the forefront. The whole aim is to make sure needs are met in an emotionally healthy way.

When needs are not met in childhood, you may find you do not have the tools for the job when you become an adult. The basic requirements in childhood are food, shelter, love, affection, guidance and safety. If these needs are not met, you may develop maladaptive schemas, such as not mixing socially, getting into toxic relationships, and possibly self-destructive behaviour.

What Are The Schemas?

There are quite a few schemas you could exhibit, but they fall into roughly five domains. You might have more than one schema, so this is just for guidance purposes.

Domain I is all about rejection and a sense of disconnect; this typically makes it difficult for you to develop healthy adult relationships. You might be overly dominant or behave like a martyr.

Domain II is all about your being you, making it difficult for you to be yourself (autonomy), and you may find that you can’t be an adult and may revert to a child-like state within a relationship or when confronted by an adult.

Domain III is all about limits; you may have problems identifying your self-limits or spotting the limits within other people. You may always overstep the boundaries and not sense or know when to stop.

Domain IV, you may find that you put other peoples needs above your own, such as the martyr we saw in an earlier domain. You may lack the ability to say no and get taken advantage of by some people.

Domain V could see you being active in avoiding failure and constantly on high alert in case things start taking a downward turn. You might become obsessive. It could be that you are hurting yourself emotionally by being so attached to perfection.

What Are The Coping Styles?

How you cope with your schemas is how you learned as a child; however, what may have worked as a child, will probably not work as an adult. Even though you might be able to look logically at things, such as you know you are lovable, you might not feel that way, which is where the disconnect comes in. You may also have increased or varied your coping mechanisms as you have become older, such as the introduction of alcohol.

Schema Therapy aims to find the unmet need within you and then build nurturing relationships around those needs so that you can increase self-esteem and confidence.

Which Mental Health Issues Are Treated?

therapy session, young adult female

Whilst other therapies may have touched upon areas, ST is a lengthier process and will get to the root of issues. It has been proven to be effective with people who have borderline personality disorders, but it is also helpful for the following:

  • PTSD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Substance Abuse
  • Personality Disorders
  • Criminal Behaviour and Intent
  • Relationship Issues

The Pros and Cons of ST

One of the cons is the cost of treatment because it often takes a lot longer when dealing with the root cause of problems; the number of therapy sessions needed can go way past the usual 8-12 weeks for other therapy. This is because treating someone from childhood upwards takes time, especially when ingrained and attached to personality and emotional output.

It is a new therapy, and there is still research being undertaken to discover its effectiveness. However, as stated previously, there have been studies done on their suitability when it comes to personality disorders. They have also shown it to be effective when treating depressive disorders.

Where Can You Find a Therapist?

The easiest way is to use the search function at The Schema Therapy Society. They are international and have a directory of trained professionals. Or search Google for ‘schema therapists near me.’

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