Types of Therapy

Schema Therapy

Schema Therapy in Melbourne

For clients seeking an integrative approach including Schema Therapy in Melbourne, we have compiled the below information to help you understand this type of therapeutic approach and we explore it’s uses and benefits.

What is Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy is a therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Jeffrey Young that integrates elements from cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic principles, and attachment theory. It aims to address longstanding patterns of maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors known as “schemas.” These schemas are believed to develop during childhood due to unmet emotional needs or adverse experiences.

In schema therapy, individuals work with their therapists to identify and understand these negative patterns and the associated emotional states called “schema modes.” The therapy emphasizes the exploration of early life experiences, as well as the development of coping strategies and healthier ways of meeting emotional needs. Through various techniques such as cognitive restructuring, experiential exercises, and limited reparenting, individuals are guided in challenging and modifying their maladaptive schemas.

One unique aspect of schema therapy is the emphasis on addressing not only the thought patterns but also the emotional and behavioral challenges a client may experience as a result of their identified schemas. The goal is to foster a more balanced and responsive way of thinking, feeling, and behaving, ultimately promoting lasting emotional well-being and improved relationships. Schema therapy has shown effectiveness, particularly for individuals with chronic and pervasive mental health issues rooted in early childhood experiences.

While therapies such as CBT and DBT are seen to be effective in reducing acute symptoms, schema therapy is effective in reducing chronic symptoms as well as pinpointing and treating negative life patterns and deeply ingrained emotional themes. It also seeks to build resilience and build on the individual’s key strengths.

What are Schemas?

Schemas, or what we refer to as Early Maladaptive Schemas, can form as a result of core basic needs being significantly unmet in childhood. When needs such as safety, predictability/consistency, love/nurturance/attention, acceptance/praise, empathy, guidance/protection, and validation are not provided for, Early Maladaptive Schemas can occur as a result. EMS can be otherwise be defined as deep unconditional beliefs about oneself, one’s relationship to others and one’s relationship to the wider environment.

There are five basic schema domains and organised within these five schema domains are 18 specific early maladaptive schemas (EMS).

List of Early Maladaptive Schemas

Disconnection and rejection

Defectiveness/ shame

The belief that one is defective, bad, unwanted, inferior, or unworthy. This includes the fear of insecurities being exposed to significant others, accompanied by hypersensitivity to criticism, rejection, and blame.

Social Isolation/ alienation

The belief that one is isolated from other people; the feeling of not being a part of any groups.

Emotional deprivation

The belief that one’s standard for emotional support will not be met by others.

Abandonment/ instability

The belief system involving the sense that significant others will not be able to continue providing support, connection, strength, or protection because they are unstable, unpredictable, unreliable; because they will eventually die; or because they found someone better.

Mistrust/abuse

The belief system involving the sense that others will intentionally hurt, abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie manipulate, take advantage, or neglect.

Impaired autonomy and performance

Dependence/ incompetence

The belief that one cannot handle daily responsibilities without the help of others.

Vulnerability to harm or illness

The belief system involving the exaggeration of fear that catastrophe will strike at any time; the catastrophes may be medical, emotional, or external.

Enmeshment/ underdeveloped self

The belief system that one must please others at the expense of self or social development.

Failure

The belief that one will fail in everything.

Impaired limits

Entitlement/ grandiosity

The belief that one is superior to others, which allows one to have special rights and privileges.

Insufficient self-control/ self-discipline

The conflict between life goals and low self-control, perhaps seeking comfort instead of trying to perform daily responsibilities.

Other-directedness

Subjugation

The belief that one should surrender control to others, suppressing desires in order to avoid anger, retaliation, or abandonment.

Approval-seeking/ recognition-seeking

The desire to gain approval, recognition, or attention from other people at the expense of developing a secure and true sense of self.

Self-sacrifice

The belief system involving excessive selflessness focused on meeting the needs of others at the expense of one’s own desire.

Overvigilance and inhibition

Overcontrol/ emotional inhibition

The belief system involving the inhibition of actions, feelings, or communications to avoid negative consequences.

Negativity/ pessimism

The belief system involving the overemphasis on the negative aspects of life including pain, death, loss, disappointment, conflict, guilt, resentment, unsolved problems, potential mistakes, betrayal, or things that could go wrong; neglecting positive aspects of life.

Unrelenting standards/ hypercriticalness

The belief that one must strive to meet very high personal standards, usually to avoid criticism, leading to hypercriticalness toward self and/or others.

Punitiveness

The belief that people should face consequences for their mistakes.

Source: Klosko, Janet S.; Sanderson, William C. (1999). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of depression. Clinical application of evidence-based psychotherapy

Schema Modes

A schema mode consists of a cluster of schemas and coping styles that can be described as momentary mind states which any individual can experience from time to time.

Life situations that arouse bad memories or disturb or offend a person are referred to as “triggers”. These triggers activate the schema modes. A psychologically healthy individual would experience these modes more mildly whereas in an individual with a personality disorder schema modes are more severe and pervasive.

There are 10 identified Schema modes grouped into four categories: 

Schema Therapy Melbourne - Schema Modes: Child modes - Vulnerable Child, Angry Child, Impulsive/Undisciplined Child, Happy Child. Dysfunctional Coping modes - Compliant Surrenderer, Detached Protector, Overcompensator. Dysfunctional Parent modes - Punitive Parent, Demanding Parent. Healthy Adult mode.

Schema Modes – Schema Therapy Melbourne

List of Schema Modes

Child Modes

Vulnerable Child

This mode represents a pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that stems from early experiences of vulnerability, powerlessness, or a lack of emotional support during childhood. Individuals with a prominent Vulnerable Child mode may carry a deep-seated belief that they are fundamentally fragile, helpless, or unworthy of care and protection.

People operating in the Vulnerable Child mode often exhibit behaviours indicative of their emotional fragility, such as heightened sensitivity to criticism, fears of abandonment, or difficulties asserting themselves. This schema mode can impact various aspects of life, influencing relationships, self-esteem, and the ability to navigate challenges with resilience.

Impulsive/Undisciplined Child

This mode represents a pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that originates from early experiences where individuals lacked guidance, structure, or consistent discipline during childhood. People operating in this mode may exhibit impulsive and spontaneous behaviours, struggle with self-control, and have difficulty following rules or routines.

Individuals with the Impulsive/Undisciplined Child schema mode might find it challenging to delay gratification, control impulses, or consider the long-term consequences of their actions. This mode can impact various aspects of life, leading to difficulties in maintaining relationships, meeting responsibilities, and achieving long-term goals.

Angry Child

This mode represents a specific emotional state or pattern of thinking and behaviour that individuals may experience as a result of early life experiences or unmet emotional needs. In the context of the Angry Child schema mode, individuals tend to exhibit behaviours and emotions reminiscent of a child who feels frustrated, hurt, or neglected.

When the Angry Child mode is activated, individuals may display outward expressions of anger, tantrums, and defiance. Underlying these behaviours, however, are often deeper emotions such as sadness, fear, or a sense of injustice. The Angry Child mode can be triggered by situations that resemble past experiences of feeling neglected, mistreated, or not understood.

Happy Child

The Happy Child mode represents a state where an individual taps into a more carefree, joyful, and spontaneous aspect of themselves. It reflects a positive and contented emotional state, reminiscent of the carefree and unburdened nature typically associated with a happy and secure childhood.

Individuals in the Happy Child mode may exhibit behaviours and attitudes associated with happiness, playfulness, and spontaneity. This mode reflects the capacity to experience joy, express oneself authentically, and feel a sense of inner contentment. Activating the Happy Child mode can be therapeutic, serving as a counterbalance to more challenging or distressing emotional states.

Dysfunctional Parent Modes

Punitive Parent

This mode represents a cognitive and emotional pattern that individuals may adopt based on early experiences and upbringing. In the punitive parent schema mode, a person tends to internalize harsh and critical messages from authority figures, often reflecting the attitudes and behaviours of a stern or punitive caregiver.

People operating in the Punitive Parent mode may exhibit behaviours reflective of self-criticism, perfectionism, and a tendency to be overly strict or punitive towards themselves. This internalized critical stance can hinder emotional well-being, contributing to issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and difficulty in embracing imperfections.

Demanding Parent

This mode reflects a pattern of thinking and behaviour characterized by high expectations, perfectionism, and an excessive need for control. Individuals with a dominant demanding parent schema mode may internalize critical and demanding voices from their upbringing, leading to self-imposed standards that are often unrealistic and unattainable. This mode is rooted in the individual’s early experiences, where they may have felt pressure to meet exceptionally high standards set by caregivers or authority figures.

Individuals with a prominent Demanding Parent mode may struggle with perfectionism, be overly self-critical, and find it challenging to relax or enjoy accomplishments without a constant sense of pressure. This schema mode can impact relationships, as individuals may impose unrealistically high expectations on themselves and others, fostering a cycle of frustration and dissatisfaction.

Dysfunctional Coping Modes

Compliant Surrenderer

This mode represents a pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that originates from early experiences of having to comply with the needs and expectations of others to gain approval, avoid criticism, or prevent abandonment. Individuals with a dominant Compliant Surrenderer mode tend to prioritize the needs of others over their own, often suppressing their own desires and feelings.

Characterized by a strong desire for acceptance and fear of rejection, those operating in the Compliant Surrenderer mode may go to great lengths to please others, even at the expense of their own well-being. This mode can lead to difficulties in asserting oneself, setting boundaries, and making independent decisions.

Detached Protector

This mode represents a coping mechanism that individuals adopt as a defence against emotional pain and vulnerability. In the Detached Protector mode, individuals distance themselves emotionally from others and may appear aloof, emotionally cold, or indifferent. This detachment serves as a way to shield themselves from potential hurt, rejection, or betrayal.

People experiencing the Detached Protector mode often suppress their own emotional needs and avoid seeking support from others. This protective strategy can be a response to past experiences of trauma, abandonment, or emotional neglect. While the Detached Protector helps individuals navigate threatening situations, it can also hinder the development of close, meaningful relationships and contribute to a sense of isolation. 

Overcompensator

In this mode, individuals engage in exaggerated efforts to prove their worth, competence, or desirability to themselves and others. The Overcompensator mode often originates from early experiences of feeling inadequate, unlovable, or incompetent. To shield themselves from these perceived shortcomings, individuals adopt a defensive strategy of striving for perfection, success, or approval.

People in the Overcompensator mode may set unrealistically high standards for themselves, constantly seeking validation and external recognition. Fearful of failure or rejection, they may work tirelessly to outperform others or seek admiration to compensate for their underlying feelings of inadequacy. While on the surface, they may appear successful or confident, the Overcompensator mode can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, and a persistent sense of never being “good enough.”

Healthy Adult Mode

In Schema Therapy, the Healthy Adult mode is considered an optimal and functional state of being. This mode represents a pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that reflects a mature, balanced, and adaptive approach to life. The Healthy Adult mode is characterized by a capacity for self-awareness, self-regulation, and the ability to make rational, constructive decisions.

Individuals who are operating in the Healthy Adult mode can engage in positive relationships, cope effectively with challenges, and pursue goals with a realistic understanding of their capabilities. This mode involves a sense of self-acceptance, responsibility, and the ability to meet one’s needs in a constructive manner.

In therapy, the goal is often to strengthen and nurture the Healthy Adult mode. This may involve exploring and understanding maladaptive patterns from other schema modes (such as the Vulnerable Child or Impulsive/Undisciplined Child) and working towards integrating healthier alternatives. The therapist helps individuals develop and enhance their self-awareness, self-compassion, and effective coping mechanisms to foster a more balanced and resilient approach to life. The Healthy Adult mode serves as a guide for making decisions based on a realistic understanding of oneself and the world, promoting overall well-being and psychological health.

Schema Therapy Treatment Techniques

In addition to the basic healing components of the therapeutic relationship or ‘therapeutic alliance’, treatment plans in schema therapy generally include three basic classes of techniques:

Cognitive

Cognitive strategies can include this such as listing positive and negative aspects of a schema, or facilitating a ‘conversation’ between the “schema side” and the “healthy side”.

Experiential

Experiential strategies include a technique referred to as ‘Imagery Re-scripting’ which expands on Gestalt therapy psychodrama and imagery techniques.

Behavioural

Behavioural pattern-breaking strategies include things such as role playing, setting homework and a process called ‘limited reparenting’ which is one of the most unique and defining elements of treatment in schema therapy.

Seeking treatment?

Mindview Psychology offers Schema Therapy treatment in Melbourne with experienced and passionate psychologists. Our practice location in the Melbourne CBD is both convenient and discreet and offers a safe and peaceful environment for individuals to explore their life’s challenges with the support and understanding of a compassionate and capable team.

Melbourne psychologists offering Schema Therapy

Our practice is dedicated to facilitating a safe container where you can explore your challenges and find your path to greater well-being. 

We have an experienced and diverse team who focus on establishing a safe and compassionate therapeutic alliance and use evidence-based therapeutic approaches including Schema Therapy. Treatment can be delivered in-person or via Telehealth.

Jason Chung – Psychologist

Jason Chung

Psychologist
Shagun Chawla - Clinical Psychologist

Shagun Chawla

Clinical Psychologist
Oliver Santiago - Clinical Psychologist

Oliver Santiago

Clinical Psychologist

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