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  • Writer's pictureFelicity Jefferson

What is Schema Therapy?

Updated: Jul 5

In the 1990's, Jeffrey Young developed Schema Therapy in an attempt to address what was missing in traditional Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) after observing that some clients continued to experience depression and other mental health issues despite already receiving treatment.


Schema Therapy identifies the patterns or themes of our lives that are holding us back from achieving our goals. These patterns usually originate in our childhood and develop when our core needs are not met.


In Schema Therapy 5 core needs are identified:

  • Attachment - feeling unconditionally loved and valued by others especially caregivers.

  • Emotional Validation - understanding that our experiences of the world, including our emotions, are real and valid.

  • Autonomy - believing that we can set and achieve goals and have an impact on the world around us.

  • Boundaries - healthy limit setting from caregivers, not too strict and not too lenient.

  • Play & Spontaneity - having fun and expressing ourselves openly and freely.


If during childhood your needs in one of these areas was regularly unmet it is likely that you have developed an associated schema that may be blocking you from creating the life you desire or leading to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.


By identifying these themes and unmet needs we can develop a treatment plan to create healthier and more helpful beliefs about ourselves and the world, learn new ways of responding to triggers and find greater self-esteem and self-confidence.


Changing our schema patterns is not a simple or easy task but there are many therapeutic techniques that with time can help us make significant changes. I like to integrate EMDR therapy, CBT and mindfulness and compassion therapies with Schema Therapy so that we are shifting positively on both a conscious and unconscious level.


The first step though always starts with becoming aware of the patterns that are getting in our way. As such, I will normally ask my clients to complete the schema questionnaires and discuss their results within the first 2-3 sessions. This sets us both up with a clear understanding of the issues and a path forward.


If you would like to find out more about your schemas and how to change them book a session with me today.

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