Change Unhelpful Patterns Now: Insights from Schema Therapy

I wanted to share a common string of experiences that I hear in the therapy room, and some ways that Schema Therapy can assist. Schema Therapy can improve your ability to care for yourself. It can also reduce the severity of your reactions to things that are emotionally distressing.

What is Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy is a therapeutic approach that digs deep into the roots of longstanding patterns, helping individuals understand and change negative life patterns. Unlike some quick-fix therapies, it’s like the Sherlock Holmes of mental health, investigating the underlying causes of emotional challenges.

What are Early Maladaptive Schemas?

Think of Early Maladaptive Schemas as the building blocks of our mental narratives. These are core beliefs formed during our early years, influencing how we see ourselves and others. They’re like those pesky pop-up ads in our minds that say, “You’re not good enough” or “People will abandon you.”

How do schemas form in early life?

Picture your brain as a sponge in those formative years, absorbing everything around. Schemas develop from early experiences, shaped by family dynamics, societal influences, and personal traumas. It’s like the foundation of a house—if it’s shaky, everything built on top might wobble.

I often hear people I work with recount patterns from earlier in their lives that ends up having a significant impact upon self care, self worth, functioning in relationships, and mental health in their adult lives. This pattern is formed by the absence of emotional needs being met in childhood, or these needs being met inconsistently by the caregiver/s in their lives. This can lead to a rollercoaster of emotional dysregulation and difficulties in selecting partners who are able and willing to meet their emotional needs in relationships. Sometimes people also feel unworthy of having these needs be met, knowing what they are and/or how to ask for them!)

What mental health challenges relate to strong schemas?

These schemas can be the architects of mental health challenges. Depression, anxiety, relationship struggles—they’re often rooted in these early beliefs. It’s like trying to build a stable house on a rocky foundation; things might look okay, but cracks will appear.

What other therapy works well alongside Schema Therapy?

Schema Therapy plays well with others! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and mindfulness practices can complement it.

Click here to read more about the individual, couple, and group services we offer at Evo Psychology – we offer Schema Therapy in Canberra as well as online/telehealth.

A colourful cartoon image of two people in a therapy room. Schema Therapy can look like this, as an example.

What are some benefits of Schema Therapy?

Here is a snapshot of some of the benefits of Schema Therapy if any of the above feels familiar:

  1. Embracing the Puzzle Pieces of Our Past: Life can feel like a puzzle at times, with missing pieces that leave us feeling incomplete. Schema therapy gently guides us to explore the origins of our unmet emotional needs. Together, we unveil the forgotten fragments of our past, piecing together a narrative that illuminates the root causes of our struggles. It’s like discovering hidden treasures, paving the way for understanding and healing.
  2. Building a Foundation of Compassion: In the nurturing space of Schema Therapy, we cultivate a foundation of self-compassion and acceptance. We learn to hold our emotions with tenderness, acknowledging that they are valid and worthy of understanding. Through a genuine connection with our therapist, we embrace our vulnerabilities and begin the journey towards emotional regulation and resilience.
  3. Rewriting the Internal Script: Just as a playwright revises a script, Schema Therapy empowers us to rewrite the narratives that shape our lives. We challenge the negative self-perceptions and beliefs that have held us back or pushed us around, replacing them with empowering thoughts and healthier perspectives. It’s like taking the pen back into our hands and crafting a story of self-empowerment and growth.
  4. Integrating New Patterns: As we unravel the layers of our past expereiences and subsequent learnings, Schema Therapy equips us with tools to integrate new patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. We practice new ways of responding to emotional triggers, gradually fostering emotional regulation and stability. It’s like building a bridge between our past and present, creating a path towards a more balanced and fulfilling future.
  5. Embracing a Life of Possibilities: With each step forward in Schema Therapy, we discover that we are able to change some of these patterns as we accept their origins and understand their ties to our current reactions. We develop resilience, embracing our emotions with grace and navigating challenges with newfound strength. We begin to forge deep connections, creating a support network that uplifts us on our journey.

It can be uncomfortable work, but so worthwhile. These insights can lead to a place where chronic unmet emotional needs no longer hold us back, where emotional dysregulation becomes a stepping stone to growth. Schema Therapy offers the tools and guidance we need to reclaim our power, heal our wounds, and embrace the vibrant lives we deserve. Together, let us nurture our inner gardens and watch our souls flourish.

How do I know if Schema Therapy is right for me?

If you find yourself stuck in the same patterns, feeling like déjà vu is your daily companion, schema therapy might be your mental superhero. It’s designed for those recurring life struggles that just won’t budge.

Read more about our team here to see if we’re a good fit for you.

How can Schema Therapy be adapted for neurodivergent adults and the LGBTQIA+ population?

Here’s the cool part: Schema therapy is adaptable. For neurodivergent adults and the LGBTQIA+ community, tailoring the approach is key. It’s like a therapy playlist, adjusting the tunes to match your unique rhythm.

In the diverse landscape of mental health, one size doesn’t fit all. Schema therapy gets this. For neurodivergent adults navigating the intricacies of neurotypes like Autism and/or ADHD, and for individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community, adapting the approach is a game-changer.

Understanding neurodivergence and Schema Therapy:

Neurodivergent individuals often experience the world through a different lens. Schema Therapy acknowledges and respects these unique perspectives. It’s like having a therapist who speaks your mental language, acknowledging the challenges neurodivergent individuals may face in social interactions, communication, or sensory processing.

Flexible and Inclusive Framework:

Think of schema therapy as a versatile toolbox. It’s not about forcing everyone into the same therapeutic mold; it’s about having a range of tools to address diverse needs. For neurodivergent individuals, this means recognizing and accommodating sensory preferences, communication styles, and processing differences.

Tailoring the Approach:

Imagine going to a tailor for a bespoke suit. Schema therapy adapts similarly. For neurodivergent adults, this might involve adjusting the pace, incorporating visual aids, or providing clear, explicit instructions. It’s about making therapy a comfortable and effective space for growth.

LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Approach:

Now, let’s look at any gender and sexuality considerations. Schema therapy champions an affirmative and inclusive stance. For individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community, it means creating a safe space where identity and self-expression are not just acknowledged but celebrated.

Addressing Unique Challenges:

For LGBTQIA+ individuals, schema therapy recognizes the potential impact of societal stigma, discrimination, or identity-related struggles. It’s about addressing the unique challenges that may arise, fostering a therapeutic environment that supports self-discovery and acceptance.

Cultural Competence:

Adapting schema therapy for the LGBTQIA+ population involves cultural competence. Therapists need an understanding of diverse identities and experiences, creating a space where individuals can explore their narratives without judgment.

Building Trust:

In both scenarios, trust is foundational. Adapting schema therapy involves building a trusting therapeutic alliance, understanding the lived experiences of neurodivergent and LGBTQIA+ individuals, and incorporating this awareness into the therapeutic process.

In essence, adapting schema therapy for neurodivergent adults and the LGBTQIA+ population is about working with the indivudual from where they’re at. It’s about building a therapeutic relationship between therapist and client, acknowledging the challenges of these marginalised identity aspects, but also not assuming everything through these lenses.

How effective is Schema Therapy?

Spoiler alert: It works. Studies show that schema therapy is a heavyweight champion in the therapeutic arena. It’s not just about understanding; it’s about change—building a more robust mental foundation.

What are the most common schemas in the autistic and ADHD Populations?

In the neurodivergent world, some schemas pop up more frequently. Abandonment, social isolation, and defectiveness are like common threads. It’s like dealing with a specific set of blueprints—understanding these is the first step to a more resilient structure.


Want to learn more about how Schema Therapy can be adapted for work with neurodivergent people?

Click here to listen to a podcast – Schema Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder and Neurodiversity with Dr Richard Vuijk

If you’re interested in more strategies and insights from our practice, consider subscribing to our email list below – and when you do, receive a free Neurodivergence Mini-Guide!

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