Schema Therapy is an approach for people who are experiencing more longstanding interpersonal difficulties such as managing their emotions or problems within their relationships. It seeks to identify patterns that are causing distress and find ways in which to strengthen more helpful ways of coping. Blending cognitive, behavioural and experiential techniques and using the therapeutic relationship as a vehicle for change, schema therapy helps people to learn ways to navigate the world and get their needs met more effectively.
Schemas are enduring patterns of thoughts and feelings that are often developed in childhood and adolescence but can form into adulthood. We all have schemas, but the degree to which they impact on our functioning and quality of life will vary between individuals.
Schemas include very painful and distressing beliefs about ourselves and others such as “I am un-loveable”, “people do not care about me”, “no one will ever be able to meet my needs” or “I cannot trust anyone”. Because these beliefs are so distressing, often causing us to feel anxious, depressed and isolated, we can find ourselves engaging in coping behaviours that try to keep these painful emotions away. This may include pushing people away before they reject us, avoiding intimate relationships, using substances to avoid emotions or always putting the needs of others before our own. These behavioural responses stop us from getting our own needs met and can often reinforce our negative beliefs about ourselves further. Our coping behaviours are not developed consciously and we have not chosen them. Rather, they have occurred to help us survive and navigate the difficulties we have experienced. However, even if we know that these ways of coping are unhelpful and sometimes destructive, it can feel impossible to stop engaging in them.
Schema therapy is very effective in helping with these difficulties. It involves utilising a range of techniques within sessions to help identify our unique patterns of thoughts and feelings and to work towards developing a different way of navigating life and our relationships with ourselves and others. The overall aim is to build our internalised ‘healthy adult’ whilst healing the ‘vulnerable child’. This process is sometimes referred to as ‘limited re-parenting’.
Schema therapy is an interactive therapeutic approach, and uses imagery, chair work and letter writing as well as traditional cognitive (talking) work. It is through these techniques that we access the emotions that require healing within sessions, so that you can experience having your emotional needs validated and met.