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Schema Therapy incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioural, attachment theory, experiential, and psychoanalytic approaches into one integrated method. Developed by Jeffrey Young, Schema Therapy is typically used for chronic problems often relating to childhood issues.

Schemas are defined as deeply entrenched self-defeating themes or patterns that we keep repeating throughout our lives. Schemas usually form early in life, and relate to needs that were not adequately met during childhood and adolescence.

In Schema Therapy, there are 18 maladaptive core schemas that can be worked on and changed through a range of methods.

An example of a maladaptive score schema is the Abandonment Schema. If you have this schema, you’ll experience it as a constant fear of loss, or ongoing anxiety that everyone you get close to will leave you at some point or another. You might overreact when your partner choses to do something without you, be constantly on guard for signs your partner might be about to leave you, or find it difficult to tolerate being apart. Alternatively, you might push partners away or sabotage relationships by convincing yourself they aren’t right for you, when really deep down you’re convinced they will inevitably leave you so you try to beat them to it. The abandonment schema usually relates to childhood experiences of abandonment, such as the loss of a parent, frequent separations from parents, being neglected, or general instability at home.

Treatment typically involves:


  • Identifying the Maladaptive Schemas that are contributing to unhealthy life patterns, and understanding how these are triggered.
  • Weakening unhelpful coping responses, and developing a new range of healthy coping responses
  • Use experiential methods such as imagery to change early maladaptive schemas, and to get in touch with unmet childhood needs
  • To stop the repetition of unhealthy patterns

Schema Therapy is typically done over the medium to longer term, although some people may benefit from a brief Schema Therapy intervention.

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