Schema Therapy combines elements of cognitive, behavioural, attachment, psychodynamic, and gestalt models, making it truly integrative. Similarly to CBT, Schema Therapy is structured and specific, however, the time that it takes and the focus of the sessions will vary according to the individual.
Also known as Schema-focused cognitive therapy, Schema therapy aims to change negative thought patterns and beliefs that people have lived with for a long time. These long-term beliefs are called schemas.
Schemas typically begin in early life, though they can sometimes form in adulthood. A few examples of common schemas include:
- Abandonment – the belief that others will leave you, that others are unreliable, or that relationships are fragile
- Underdeveloped self – the belief that you do not have an identity and that you are not an individual
- Vulnerability – feeling as if the world is a dangerous place and that disaster can strike at any time
- Negativity – the belief that negative aspects of life outweigh the positives.
Schemas are thought to be more deeply rooted than core beliefs, which are worked on in cognitive-behavioural therapy. Because of this, they are often more resistant to change. The goal of schema therapy is to help you to break these negative patterns and beliefs, and to replace them with healthier alternatives.
Originally, schema therapy was developed to help those with borderline personality disorder (BPD), however, it is now used to support a wide range of clients, especially those who feel that the origin of their condition/concern comes from their early life.