Dr Jeff Young developed the schema-focused approach in an attempt to help those who had not been successful using the cognitive behavioural approach (CBT). Schema therapy combines elements of cognitive, behavioural, attachment, psychodynamic and gestalt models, making it truly integrative.
In a similar way to CBT, this therapy is structured and specific, however the time it takes and the focus of sessions will vary according to the individual. Here, we’ll look at this in more detail and explain what schemas are, how this approach can help and what to expect if you undergo schema therapy.
What is schema therapy?
Schema therapy (also referred to as schema-focused cognitive therapy) aims to change negative patterns or beliefs that people have lived with for a long time. The longstanding patterns or themes are called ‘schemas’ within schema therapy.
These schemas typically begin early in our life, though sometimes, they can form later on in adulthood. Here are just a few examples of schemas that can be helped with schema therapy:
Abandonment - The belief that others will leave you, that people are unreliable and that relationships are fragile.
Underdeveloped self - Having the sense that you do not have an identity or are individual.
Vulnerability - Feeling as if the world is a dangerous place and that disaster can strike at any time.
Negativity/pessimism - A constant belief that negative aspects in life outweigh the positives and having a pessimistic outlook for the future.
Such schemas can be reinforced by certain behaviours, patterns of thinking and the mind’s coping strategies. The goal of schema therapy is to help you break these ways of thinking, feeling and behaving, and replacing them with healthier alternatives.