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.
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.
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.
Working with a schema therapist can see you:
Schema therapy can help with things like: