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Schema Therapy

Schema therapy was developed by the psychologist, Dr Jeffrey Young. It combines elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychoanalysis, attachment theory and emotion-focused therapy. The term ‘schema’ refers to an unhelpful, unconscious assumption that develops when core emotional needs are not met in childhood. These schemas are an adaptation to an individual’s family of origin, which means that they start out as essential to the person’s survival but can later become the source of unhelpful patterns of behaviour and relationship difficulties.

Schemas can be broadly grouped into five domains:

  1. Disconnection and Rejection: Includes schemas that make it difficult to develop healthy relationships
  2. Impaired Autonomy and Performance: Includes schemas that make it difficult to develop a strong sense of self and function as a healthy adult in the world
  3. Impaired Limits: Includes schemas that affect self-control and the ability to respect boundaries and limits
  4. Other-Directedness: Includes schemas that lead you to prioritise the needs of others above your own
  5. Over-Vigilance and Inhibition: Includes schemas that prioritise avoiding failure or mistakes through alertness, rules, and disregarding desires or emotions

People can develop schemas in multiple domains and two people can behave very differently even though they may share similar underlying schemas. This is because people develop different coping styles in response to their schemas.

The goals of schema therapy are to identify and heal unhelpful schemas, identify and address coping styles that may be getting in the way of getting one’s emotional needs met, change behaviour patterns that perpetuate unhelpful schemas and learn healthy ways to meet core emotional needs. Your therapist will use a variety of strategies to help you achieve this, including guided imagery, role play, exploration of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with specific schemas, and ‘limited re-parenting’ to help provide a corrective emotional experience.

Further information about Schema Therapy can be found at:

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