Schema Therapy provides a structured psychological model for understanding and overcoming a very wide range of recurrent mental health problems. This recognises that the ‘root causes’ of our present difficulties often relate to how we’ve been affected by our past experiences. The therapy targets our underlying psychological themes – the negative ‘schemas’ formed during our upbringing – and how we learned to cope with them.
Schema Therapy isn’t intended to be a ‘quick fix’, or to teach you coping methods. Rather, it focuses on altering your relationship with your emotions. Interventions focus on helping you to abandon unhelpful or counterproductive coping styles, and to develop a “Healthy Adult” perspective to your emotions, reactions and life. The objective is to learn how to recognise and meet your emotional needs, and get these in balance with other peoples’.
Three Stages of Schema Therapy
First, therapy focuses on developing an understanding of yourself using the schema model. Working together with your therapist to review a series of structured questionnaires, we will construct an overview or “mode map” of the psychological factors relating to your issues. You will work between the sessions to try to identify these, and will learn about the schema model and how you developed your schemas. The aim is to enable you to develop self-awareness and insight into your reactions. With this awareness comes the first opportunity for you to get a little distance on your difficulties and re-evaluate how you relate to yourself, other people and your life.
Next we ‘go deeper’ by beginning to bypass and challenge some of your coping modes – the psychological defences that may be keeping you stuck. We work to understand and alter the inner dialogues associated with your difficulties. During this stage a close working relationship is needed with your therapist, as you begin to access often painful feelings about yourself. The therapist helps you re-envision how you see the past, altering its impact on you in the present. We revise problematic attitudes, ideas and feelings. Major techniques for this include the use of chairwork dialogues, cognitive restructuring and imagery re-scripting.
Finally therapy focuses on helping you implement changes in your life. At this stage we aim to break any problem patterns behaviour that may remain, replacing them with healthier alternatives. There is continued focus on building a healthy sense of self, making good choices and developing balanced relationships.
Following therapy it is usual to have less frequent ‘booster’ sessions to support and coach you in implementing what you have learned in therapy.