What is Schema Therapy and What Are Its Key Principles?

Schema therapy is a fairly new form of therapy that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It is said to be more effective than traditional therapies for certain populations, such as those with personality disorders. But what is schema therapy, exactly? And what are the key principles behind it? Here are seven interesting things to know about schema therapy.

Schema Therapy was developed in the 1960s by Dr. It is an extension of Cognitive Therapy developed by Aaron Beck.

The Schema Therapy model, developed by Jeffrey Young, focuses on discovering and changing early life experiences and their reflections during adulthood. The approach, which set out with the target of change-resistant difficult cases or personality disorders, has started to be applied in other psychological problem areas in different problems such as individual, group, and couple therapies. Researches carried out over the last decade has begun to provide remarkable evidence of the approach’s effectiveness.

What is schema therapy?

The term schema comes from cognitive psychology. Schemas are our rigid beliefs about ourselves and the world that we learn early in life. They are central to our sense of self. Giving up our belief in schema also means giving up the confidence of knowing who we are and what the world is like. That’s why we cling to it even if it hurts. These early beliefs provide us with a sense of foresight and control; They are comfortable and familiar. They make us feel at home in a strange way. This is why cognitive psychologists believe that shams are difficult to change.

Who is Jeffrey Young?

Jeffrey Young is a psychiatrist who specializes in chronic pain and has written extensively on the topic. He is the founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for pain, which is a form of therapy that has been shown to be effective in reducing chronic pain. He also teaches at Columbia University and Yale University.

Schema Therapy has been one of the most effective therapy methods especially in America and Europe, it has developed in the last 20 years. Today, it is effectively used by psychotherapists in 82 countries. Schema Therapy is Holistic. There are many psychological schools such as Psychoanalytic Therapy, Object Relations Theory and Attachment, Interpersonal Therapy, Cognitive Therapy, Behavioral Therapy. The holistic approach to schema therapy allows it to address problems in a multifaceted and broad.

schema therapy

What is Schema ?

Schemas are patterns of thought, emotions, and behaviors that occur in the early years of life. Over time, schemas become solid, immutable, unconditional evaluations. Thanks to these features, the schemes become stronger and more difficult to replace. The schemes act as filters in which we put the information that we receive into us. We evaluate events according to the schemes we have and make our decisions according to the schemes. This often causes us to distort the information.

With infancy, the person who defines the environment and the world begins to gain knowledge in time. This information, which has been learned since childhood, now forms the person’s schemes. Man has a scheme of everything in his life. Through those schemes, everything or everyone we encounter after the first experience has a value, meaning as it occurs in our minds. We group the things we experience in our minds, encode what we can distinguish from each other.

Jeffrey Young developed schema therapy as a unique school in the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy approach. The definition of schema therapy can be made as follows:

Schema therapy is a psychotherapy schema directed towards patients for whom emotional and behavioral dysfunctions are intimately related to personality organization problems. A personality is considered organized when it can regulate, synthesize and balance the various aspects of an individual’s life in order to achieve enduring psychological health.

What Are the Topics of Schema Therapy?

In schema therapy, the therapist does not diagnose the client. It tries to find out the basic scheme of psychological problems in the client. In other words, the person has learned to cope with this scheme that he has created as a result of his experiences in life. If there are disturbing behaviors or thoughts and attitudes, they try to look for the basics of the client’s early childhood life and try to make sense of the disruptive processes in early childhood or adolescence.

Therapist Application Process

In individuals, behaviors parallel to the schema and therefore, whether the individual needs a treatment or psychotherapy, and whether the behaviors parallel to the schema of the individual harms himself or his environment or the people around him. So, if hey continue to be disruptive behavior, it is useful to consult with a correct schema therapist and to get support from experts.

Jeffrey Young grouped the schemes under 5 fields and 18 subheadings.


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The schemes below the fields are separated as follows;

I – Separation and Exclusion (Rejection) Area:

Abandonment Scheme:

Skepticism / Abuse Scheme:

Emotional Deprivation Scheme:

Defect / Shame Chart:

Social Isolation (Isolation / Alienation) Scheme:

II – Damaged Freedom (Impaired Autonomy and Ability to Do Business) Field:

Addiction / Disability Scheme:

Vulnerability Chart:

Adhesion (Undeveloped Self) Chart:

Failure Scheme:

III – Damaged / Weak Limits Area:

Rightness / grandiloquence:

Insufficient Self-Control Scheme:

IV – Other Orientation Area:

Neck Bending / Withdrawal Chart:

Self-Sacrifice Scheme:

Approval Search Scheme:

V – Hypersensitivity And Printing Area:

Pessimism / Failure to Fold Diagram:

Emotion Suppression / Extreme Responsibility Scheme:

High (Ruthless) Standards / Extreme Criticism Chart:

What Problems Can Schema Therapy Help?

Inability to enter crowd environments, continuous abandonment in relationships, doubting everyone, also having difficulty expressing himself, believing that they are constantly making mistakes, chronic depression and anxiety, eating disorders, chronic couple problems involving repetitive cycles. etc. problems. First of all, whether or not the person applying to the specialist for psychological problems, are suitable for schema therapy. If the client is eligible to work with Scheme Therapy, the process starts.

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At the end of the therapy process, individuals separate to recognize the basis of their problems, that is, their causative schemes. However, there may be a possibility of recurrence of other problems over time. It is in this case that the client can manage what he/she has learned from the support of Scheme Therapy. If he cannot deal with incompatible processes again, he can still get support from his specialist.

Formation of Psychological Problems in Terms of Schema Therapy

In schema therapy, incompatible schemes are thought to arise when the basic needs of a person cannot be met. To be more precise, the schemes emerge when the basic needs are not met in childhood and adolescence, and they cause the basic needs not to be met in adulthood. The basic needs affecting the formation of the schemes are:

  • Safe Attachment to Others (approaches involving security, stability, maintenance, acceptance)
  • Freedom of Movement, Competence and Positive Identity Perception
  • Freedom of Expression of Needs and Emotions
  • Spontaneity And Game
  • Realistic Limits And Self-Control

These basic needs need to be eliminated so that the “essence” that exists in human beings can be revealed and “self-realization”. Every basic need that cannot be met creates unique problem areas/schema areas. Schemes can be created in 3 basic ways:

Preventing Needs at a Damaging Level: Because of being human, every person may be deprived of some positive experiences. Normally, people can tolerate their unresolved needs and maintain their lives normally. However, our most basic human needs can sometimes be hampered to a degree we cannot overcome. The people who usually act here are our parents or the people who care for us.

Bumping, Victimization, Bad Behavior: Any blow that will happen to us in life and that may disrupt our integrity can fall into this group. These blows can result from people or nature. For example, they can be a result of an earthquake or harassment.

Overpowering Good Things: Boundaries as much as freedom are necessary for human development. Rollo May expresses this situation with river aphorism. In order for a river to form, borders are needed as much as water.

Selective internalization, identification, temperament and cultural elements also play an active role in schema formation.

The main purpose of schema therapy is to identify the schemes underlying the current problems of the clients and to help them reach their basic needs (love-bonding, freedom of movement, fun, self-expression and creating realistic limits) in healthy ways.

For more information, you can go to the relevant category: #SchemaTherapy

Last Updated on December 12, 2022 by Lucas Berg


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