All human beings have strivings towards connection, understanding and growth. We are shaped by a deep desire to be known, seen and recognised as we strive to come into contact with parts of ourselves that are frozen, stuck or suffering. The more our strivings are thwarted by deprivation, neglect, trauma or loss, the more profound and painful our longings can become. We all have a fundamental need to grow, to heal and become our best “selves”. The result can be a sense of vitality and renewed energy.
Schema Therapy recognises all aspects of neurophysiology in its approach. Neuroscience teaches us that we each have an inbuilt capacity for growth and healing ( Siegel, Daniel J., 2011. “Mindsight: Transform Your Brain with the New Science of Kindness”). A positive, responsive and safe relationship produces chemicals and hormones, which enhance the regulation of emotions, stress and neural firing. The ability of the brain to change itself, coupled with the power of a safe therapeutic relationship, promises fulfillment. They change feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness or general unhappiness and link us to a path towards greater peace.
The Schema Institute was set up in 2009, by Agnes Sullivan who was trained by Dr Jeffrey Young, the founder of Schema therapy. Although Agnes worked as a therapist for many years as a psychodynamic, integrative practitioner, she was frustrated by the limitations of these models in helping some clients to get the change they wanted. She saw how Schema therapy provided a straightforward, direct approach that goes beyond getting in touch with feelings and gaining awareness, and offered the key to helping clients who needed more specialised help. Studies on Schema therapy verses Psychodynamic therapy showed that Schema therapy had a more successful outcome. (Giesen-Bloo, J. et. al. (2006). Outpatient Psychotherapy for Borderline Personality Disorder: Randomised Trial of Schema-Focused Therapy vs Transference-Focused Psychotherapy. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2006; 63:649-658.)
Many clients who begin schema therapy have sometimes spent years in other types of therapies, gaining valuable insight, but often frustrated by their lack of progress.
Schema therapy is especially helpful in treating chronic depression and anxiety and relationship difficulties. It helps to prevent relapse among substance abusers. Schema therapy enables changes in clients who feel hopeless about their self-destructive patterns, because these problematic behaviours may seem so entrenched that they appear to be part of their very identity.
Schemas or ‘negative life beliefs’ can lead to low self-esteem, lack of connection to others, problems expressing feelings and emotions and excessive worrying about basic safety issues. The beliefs can also create strong attraction to inappropriate partners and lead to dissatisfying careers.
Beginning with a series of assessments clients learn to recognise which schemas and problematic coping styles affect them the most, understand the origins and learn how to make lasting changes.
Structured assignments are worked on outside sessions that help clients to continually confront their negative beliefs. In each session, the client works with their therapist to identify when their unhealthy patterns are repeating, and are "empathically confronted" with the reasons for change. The therapist provides a partial antidote to meeting some of the client’s needs that may not have been met in their childhood.
Schema therapy is outlined in the book 'Reinventing Your Life’, by Jeffrey Young, Ph.D. and Janet Klosko, Ph.D. (1994)
For a full list of Schemas and coping styles click on the link Understanding Schema therapy.