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Schema Therapy

Schema therapy was developed to tackle more complex psychological disorders and is a unified approach that combines methods of cognitive, behavioural, gestalt and object relations therapy. A schema is a deep unconditional belief about oneself relationships, or the wider environment, or an organised pattern or behaviour. Schemas often form when our basic emotional needs are not met, some of the most common being connection, mutuality, reciprocity, flow and autonomy.

Often, we develop coping mechanisms and behaviours to deal with these schemas that are problematic or harmful, and can actually serve to reinforce them. These mechanisms usually fall into one of three categories – surrender, avoidance and overcompensation. Let’s say for example you have an abandonment schema. When it is triggered you may either beg your partner not to leave you (surrender), avoid getting in relationships altogether (avoidance), or push partners away with possessive or controlling behaviours (overcompensate). You may find yourself gravitating to one of these, or a mix.

Schema therapy, therefore, aims to teach us how to ensure our emotional needs are met in a way that is not problematic.

The main types of clinical interventions employed in schema therapy are interpersonal, cognitive, emotions focused and behavioural. A therapist will help us to identify our schemas and coping mechanisms, positively change our feelings and behaviours, and identify how our emotional needs can be met in a healthy way.

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