On Schema Therapy

schema therapy; It is a holistic approach that brings together cognitive, behavioral, interpersonal and experiential techniques. It is designed for psychological disorders that are caused by schemas that are defined as rigid and hard-to-change beliefs about oneself and the world, rooted in childhood and adolescence.

Schemas have a huge impact on a person’s relationships, daily life, and physical and mental health. When events that trigger schemas occur, the person automatically perceives these events as similar to their early experiences. This can result in intense anger, shame, guilt, or sadness, and these feelings can be devastating for both the person and other people. Since the schemes are life-long themes, they are familiar and natural to the person. Although it hurts the person, but because they are comforting, schemas are resistant to change and the person continues their schema-maintaining behaviors (Young & Klosko, 2015). Young et al. (2013) underlined that early maladaptive schemas paradoxically cause the unintentional re-establishment of harmful conditions in childhood in adult life. For example; A person who was abandoned by his mother or father in his childhood always chooses people -married or older – who can leave him when he grows up. Thus, the abandonment schema is validated and reinforced. With another example; The child, who was criticized, humiliated and shamed by his parents in his childhood, thinks that he has a flaw and takes people into his life who will make him think that he is flawed, not people who will make him feel valuable. Because this is the type of relationship he is used to, known and familiar with.

Origins of schemas

The root cause of early maladaptive schemas are the failure to meet the basic emotional needs in childhood, early experiences and temperament (Young & Klosko, 2015). According to Young et al. (2013), basic needs in childhood; secure attachment (security, stability, acceptance, care), freedom of movement, perception of competence and identity, freedom to express needs and feelings, realistic limits and self-control, spontaneity and play. Meeting these needs is very important for the psychological development of the child. If basic needs are not met in childhood, schemas begin to form. Young et al. (2013) stated that the traumatic experiences of the child with the caregiver cause the development of schemas.

Basic Emotional Needs

Young et al. (2013) grouped eighteen schemas into five schema domains. When the emotional needs of the child are ignored and caregivers are distant and rejecting, the insecurely attached child is in the field of separation and rejection; It develops schemas of abandonment/instability, insecurity/abuse, emotional deprivation, imperfection/shame, social isolation/alienation.

The impaired autonomy and performance schema domain that develops when the needs for freedom of movement, competence, and perception of identity are not met; It consists of addiction/inability, vulnerability to diseases or threats, entanglement/underdeveloped self, and failure schemas. Overprotective parents do not meet the child’s need for autonomy. Children need the support and protection of their parents as well as to act independently and experience things on their own. It is very important for the child to gain autonomy in order to establish and develop self-confidence (Young et al., 2013).

The child who is shamed or punished when he expresses his needs and desires, when he has fun and is comfortable, learns not to express his feelings and needs. Thus, for the child who believes that he can be accepted by his parents, the wishes and needs of others take priority over his own. Other-directedness schema domain when needs and the need for freedom of expression are not met; submissiveness, self-sacrifice and approval seeking schemes occur (Young et al., 2013).

Parents of children whose needs for realistic limits and self-control are not met are overly permissive, do whatever their children want, and do not adequately supervise their children. These children have difficulty in controlling and disciplining themselves, understanding and caring about the feelings of others, and respecting the rights of others. Their own needs always come first and they tend to ignore the needs of others (Young & Klosko, 2015). Injured limits schema area when realistic limits and self-control requirements are not met; schemas of entitlement/grandism and inadequate self-control emerge (Young et al., 2013).

The spontaneity and play needs of children with normative, perfectionist and demanding parents were not met by their parents. These children suppress their emotions and impulses in order to meet their demanding parents’ expectations and follow their rules. Schema domain of hypersensitivity and suppression when spontaneity and play requirements are not met; pessimism, emotional suppression, high standards/excessive criticism and punitive schemes may develop in the individual (Young et al., 2013).

Early Life

The child’s early life experiences may pave the way for the development of schemas. The detrimental inhibition of basic needs, in other words, neglect, causes the child to be deprived of needs such as love, attention and affection by caregivers and his environment. Being physically, sexually and emotionally abused, abused and victimized in childhood creates trauma in the child, and the child whose security needs are not met perceives the world as a place full of threats and develops schemas in this direction. A child who is overprotected, cherished and pampered by his parents, on the other hand, has more than met his basic emotional needs. Although there is no deficiency experienced by the child himself, schemas can be acquired by modeling caregivers and internalizing their schemas (Young & Klosko, 2015).


Temperament is the emotional structure and uniqueness of a person from birth (Gander & Gardiner, 2007). For example, the person; shy, cold, sensitive, sociable, fearless, etc. it could be. The interaction of temperament and early experiences prepares the environment for the formation of schemas.

Who is schema therapy for?

“My relationships do not last long, I always choose the wrong people.”

“Everything was going well in our relationship, it just ended before I knew what was going on.”

“I always have to be on the alert because people can hurt and use me.”

“No one really understands me and I am mostly alone.”

“I feel guilty, incomplete and flawed inside.”

“I feel different, disconnected and mismatched from everyone else.”

“I can’t do anything right on my own, I feel incompetent.”

“I can’t get rid of the feeling that something bad is going to happen.”

“I don’t want to offend people so I have a hard time saying no.”

“I try to please everyone, I always get the lows, but no one asks me what I want.”

“No matter what I do, I don’t get appreciation from anyone.”

“No matter how high I get at work, I don’t feel good enough.”

“I have so much to do, I just can’t find time to relax, I push myself so hard that my relationships are hurting.”

“When I don’t get what I want, when my truth is not accepted and I get no, I can’t control my nerves.”

Therapeutic Relationship

Schema therapists approach the client with a more human side rather than a distant and distant approach. They help the client to express their negative feelings about the therapy, they help the client fight their schemas and moods by highlighting and strengthening the healthy side of the client. Schema therapists are flexible, evaluating each client within their own history. For example; They establish a caring and guiding relationship with a client with an emotional deprivation schema, and a less directive and controlling relationship with a client with a submissive schema. They empathically confront the client with their schemas, moods and coping behaviors, and while doing this, they share with the client what they feel sincerely.

Limited re-parenting

Schema therapy is an integrative approach and where it differs from other theories is “limited reparenting”. Limited re-parenting; Within the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship, the basic emotional needs that were not met by the parents in childhood are met by the therapist. In limited reparenting practice, the client’s earliest memory with the parent is visualized about the basic schema. The client is asked to explain all the details about the moment, the environment, sounds, people, smells, and the place, thus enabling the client to come into contact with their current feelings. At the moment of the imagery, the client’s needs are not met, seen, respected, and compassionate are not shown. “fragile boy” encounters the situation. The therapist helps the client realize what the fragile child’s basic emotional needs are. This need; There may be a need for protection, love, compassion, respect, understanding, and expressing feelings. Although the client realizes the need, he may not know how to meet the needs of his own fragile child. He may feel guilty for continuing the same patterns in his adult life and for leaving the fragile child alone and not touching him. “ Children who have not been loved from the very beginning do not know how to love themselves. As adults, they have to learn to care and mother their own lost childhood.” (Cited from Woodman. Cori, 2015). The client does not have to walk alone on the dark path that he does not know, the therapist is there to guide him. Therapist; creates a secure attachment figure for the client and, with the client’s permission, enters the imagined moment and enters into a dialogue with the fragile child to meet his needs. . “I am here, I see you, I respect you. You are so right, every child has the right to be loved, respected, understood and protected. You are special to me. Your needs are important to me. You can ask me for help.” Messages like these can be given to the fragile child. With the dialogue established between the fragile child and the therapist, the client begins to learn to be a healthy parent gradually by taking the therapist as a model. The therapist is there for the client to develop the healthy parent in himself, showing how this is done with compassion and care.

The main purpose of schema therapy is to help the client reach and meet their basic emotional needs. Schema therapy achieves its purpose when the healthy adult side of the client is strengthened and the client can do parenting that meets the basic needs exhibited by the therapist on his own.

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