What is Schema Therapy?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Feel that your life is trapped in a pattern that keeps repeating? Or do you see the world in such a different way that you constantly struggle to relate, or upset those around you?

What is schema therapy?

Schema therapy believes that difficulties in life are caused because we are trapped in ‘schemas’, life themes we learn as children that we keep repeating.

By recognising these self-defeating patterns and understanding their roots, you can start to make better choices in the present.

It was originally created to help clients with personality disorders or complex issues other types of therapy haven’t helped. But it’s now used to help a variety of issues, including relationship problems.

A long-term therapy, it is inspired by and combines elements of attachment theory, psychodynamic psychotherapy, gestalt therapy, and cognitive therapy.

How is schema therapy different than other therapies?

It is unique for its focus on ‘schemas’, also known as ‘life traps’. These are ways of being we take on board as children so that we can cope. Unfortunately, we keep repeating these patterns long after they are useful, right into adulthood.

Each schema represents an unmet need. By understanding schemas, you can not only get to know yourself better, but have more compassion for others.

A classic example here is the ‘abandonment schema’. If one of your parents abandoned or neglected you, you can take on board the idea that everyone else will also abandon or reject you. As an adult you will find yourself constantly overreacting to small things, and assuming the worse. You will often push people away to avoid being pushed away first.

Limited reparenting

Schema therapy is also known for it’s use of the therapist-client relationship as part of effective therapy. Unlike other forms of therapy where this relationship can be distinctly professional and neutral, schema therapy sees this relationship as a prototype for future healthy relationships. It's a chance for many clients to experience trust for the first time.

It uses what it calls ‘limiting reparenting’. This means your therapist ‘stands in’ as the reliable parent you never had. It doesn’t mean that the relationship is unprofessional, it simply means that they will be there for you whatever you say or do, and will be nurturing as well as set firm boundaries.

What are the benefits of schema therapy?

Working with a schema therapist can see you:

  • become self-aware
  • understand your past and how it shaped you
  • recognise your emotions and how to find emotional relief
  • be able to trust others
  • stop overreacting to things
  • have healthier relationships
  • take action in life
  • make better choices.

What issues can schema therapy help with?

Schema therapy can help with things like:

Time to break out of long-held patterns and finally make better choices? Choose a schema therapist now using our easy booking tool and get started.

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