There are nearly an unlimited number of factors that can contribute to the vast array of mental health challenges experienced by the human population. Traumatic events, unhealthy thoughts or behavior patterns, and childhood neglect are just three of the most common reasons why an individual may experience symptoms that can affect their daily functioning and make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships. Traditional forms of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can be highly effective for helping most people, but in some cases, it may not be enough. That’s where a relatively new therapy called schema-focused therapy may be able to help.
Because each person is different and has a unique set of needs and challenges, the mental health industry continues to evolve in order to find more effective ways to address and overcome barriers that are preventing someone from living their best life. Schema-focused therapy combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy and attachment theory, as well as emotion-focused and relationship-based therapies, to treat those with chronic psychological disorders such as borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse.
At Blair Wellness Group, we employ various therapeutic modalities and evidence-based treatment approaches in order to meet the clinical needs of each client. Under the expert care of Dr. Cassidy Blair, clients can learn how to overcome troublesome thoughts and behaviors in order to reach their full potential for emotional health and psychological well-being. If you’re looking for the best psychologist in Los Angeles, please contact our office to make an appointment with Dr. Blair.
About Schema-Focused Therapy
Schema-focused therapy is based on the maladaptive concept that each person has schemas or mindsets that are developed in early childhood. Schemas are negative thinking and behavior patterns that occur when basic childhood needs such as love, acceptance, and safety aren’t met. As a result, people can develop unhealthy ways of interpreting the world, also known as maladaptive schemas or mindsets. Those mindsets often remain into adulthood and contribute to each person’s own unique character, making us who we are — whether positive or negative. The goal of schema-focused therapy, therefore, is to help people identify and understand their different mindsets so they can learn to manage them and bring about schema change. In other words, someone can learn to alter the well-established beliefs that they have about themselves, others, or certain situations in order to promote healthier and more positive ways of thinking and behaving.
How Schema-Focused Therapy Works
Schema-focused therapy utilizes elements from other well-established therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and emotion-focused therapy, to change negative mindsets or beliefs known as early maladaptive schemas that are thought to originate from difficult childhood experiences. These maladaptive schemas can contribute to unhealthy coping mechanisms that remain well into adulthood. Schema-focused therapy aims to help the individual learn more about their particular schemas, including how they may have developed and how they might contribute to present-day challenges. It is through this understanding that unmet emotional needs can be identified and a focus can be put on developing healthy new schemas and positive ways of coping.
Types of Schemas
There are many different types of schemas or negative mindsets. Oftentimes, someone who has these maladaptive thinking patterns exhibit emotions and behaviors that are related to a lack of self-worth, shame, and a lack of trust. In all, 18 schemas have been identified. On average, a person will usually exhibit a few different schemas that fall into one of five particular categories. Each of these categories represents an important component of a child’s core needs. They are identified in the following manner: disconnection and rejection, impaired autonomy and performance, impaired limits, other-directedness, and over-vigilance and inhibition.
Within each of these categories are the individual schemas that contribute to the maladaptive coping mechanisms that form in adolescence and often linger on into adulthood. The 18 different schemas are defined as:
- Emotional Deprivation
- Social Isolation
- Vulnerability To Harm or Illness
- Emotional Inhibition
- Unrelenting Standards
- Poor Self-Control
According to schema theory, negative mindsets and behaviors are triggered when events that are happening in the present day resemble those from the past that contributed to the formation of the schema. For example, people who believe they are different and unaccepted by the world may choose to isolate themselves, and people who believe that they are unlovable may sabotage their relationships to avoid being abandoned.
When an individual is experiencing times of stress, loss, or difficulty, their schemas become more pronounced. But not everyone responds to their schemas in the same way. The coping mechanisms triggered by a schema can be categorized into one of three categories: surrender, avoidance, and overcompensation. Surrender refers to someone “giving in” to the behaviors that reinforce their beliefs. Avoidance is a coping style that aims to avoid any situation that may trigger unwanted feelings. It involves disconnecting from your emotions in an effort to avoid getting hurt. Overcompensation involves doing the opposite of what the schema leads a person to do with the hope that they can gain control over it.
Uses for Schema-Focused Therapy
Schema-focused therapy was initially designed to help those who suffer from symptoms of borderline personality disorder. However, it has been found to be very effective for treating a variety of mental health challenges including:
- Eating Disorders
- Substance Abuse
- Personality Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders
- Relationship Issues
If you’re struggling with any of the mental health challenges listed above, it’s important to know that it’s possible to change the distressing, self-defeating, and unhealthy behaviors that are linked to your past. Schema-focused therapy can help you identify the learned mindsets and address the problematic coping methods in an effort to achieve psychological health and emotional resilience.
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