What is Schema Therapy
Schema is a mental structure that individuals use to organise knowledge and guide cognitive processes and behaviour. Maladaptive schemas are dysfunctional thoughts and feelings that develop early in life because their need for connection, autonomy, play, spontaneity, limits, or assertions was not met. Negative schema repeated throughout the individual's life leads to low self-confidence, difficulty with forming healthy relationships, challenges in expressing emotions and intense anxiety.
Schema therapy is an innovative psychotherapy that integrates elements from cognitive behavioural therapy, attachment theory, Gestalt therapy, and psychodynamic. The therapy focuses on identifying and changing maladaptive schemas, or life patterns, that individuals develop in childhood, leading to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Dr Jeffrey Young, PhD, developed Schema Therapy to help clients break free from harmful patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaviour and to replace them with a healthier alternative.
Therapists using Schema Therapy conduct a series of assessments to help their clients recognise which schemas and maladaptive coping styles affect the client the most. The objective is to understand the maladaptive schema's origins and process it to make lasting changes. As many of the maladaptive schema are rooted in childhood trauma, the counsellors trained in Schema therapy use a series of interventions, including Imagery rescripting and role play, to process the traumatic memory which triggered the maladaptive schema.
Schema therapy is effective for the treatment of mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety, as well as for Personality Disorder (PD), including Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). A qualitative study done in Singapore and Hong Kong in April 2022 also showed that Schema Therapy is culturally relevant to the Asian context.