The Therapy Relationship
The relationship you develop with your therapist is crucial for therapy to be effective. The therapist needs to accurately connect with your ‘inner world’ and really ‘get’ your point of view. If it works well, you’ll not only feel better understood but begin to understand yourself better. This meeting of minds forms the foundation of successful Schema Therapy and all the changes that follow.
Schema Therapy recognises the central role of schemas in influencing what we expect from our relationships. When a schema is operating, it can determine how we interpret what another person is saying or doing. For example, it may colour our judgement about whether we expect the other people to like us, to judge us, to be able to understand us, or to treat us with respect. This then influences how we respond to them and cope with the situation. Sometimes, in effect, we respond more to our own schema than we do to the person in front of us.
Clients in therapy often experience intense feelings towards their therapist – both positive and negative. A phenomenon known as transference can arise, when we react towards a person in the present moment as if they were someone who had a big impact on us from our childhood. For example, if you experienced repeated criticism when you were growing up, you may sometimes interpret things that other people say to you as if they were a criticism. You may then react to that person with some of the frustration that you experienced in this situation as a child.
Transference arising during the course of therapy isn’t a problem. In fact it can lead to opportunities for learning and healing – so long as the impact of the schema is recognised. Schema Therapists provide a non-judgemental stance when schemas are operating, and can help you become more aware of this process as it arises with them. By learning how to recognise when your schemas are operating, and understanding their childhood origins, you can adapt how you interpret events and relate to other people.