Schema Therapy is the approach developed by Dr. Jeffrey Young, who originally worked closely with Dr. Aaron Beck, founder of Cognitive Therapy. While treating clients at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Young and his colleagues found a segment of people who had difficulty in benefiting from the standard approach. He discovered that these people typically had long-standing patterns or themes in thinking and feeling and consequently in behaving or coping that required a different means of intervention. Dr. Young’s attention turned to ways of helping patients to address and modify these deeper patterns or themes, also known as “schemas” or “lifetraps.” See a list of Schemas.
The schemas that are targeted in treatment are enduring and self-defeating patterns that typically begin early in life. These patterns consist of negative/dysfunctional thoughts and feelings, have been repeated and elaborated upon, and pose obstacles for accomplishing one’s goals and getting one’s needs met. Some examples of schema beliefs are: “I’m unlovable,” “I’m a failure,” “People don’t care about me,” “I’m not important,” “Something bad is going to happen,” “People will leave me,” “I will never get my needs met,” “I will never be good enough,” and so on.
Although schemas are usually developed early in life (during childhood or adolescence), they can also form later, in adulthood. These schemas are perpetuated behaviorally through the coping styles of schema maintenance, schema avoidance, and schema compensation. The Schema model of treatment is designed to help the person to break these negative patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, which are often very tenacious, and to develop healthier alternatives to replace them.
This approach combines the best aspects of cognitive-behavioural, experiential, psychodynamic and humanistic therapies into one unified model of treatment. Schema Therapy has shown remarkable results in helping people to change patterns which they have lived with for a long time, even when other methods and efforts they have tried before have been unsuccessful.
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