‘Schemas’ are what psychologists refer to when we are talking about our deepest views of the world.
These world views are formed early in childhood, and continue to exert their influence upon us long into adulthood.
They often express themselves in our deepest, most firmly held beliefs, like “people are unreliable” or “I should always put others first”.
Psychotherapy to work with schemas can be helpful in two ways:
If you regularly get depressed or anxious, your schemas may be making you vulnerable to relapse.
For example if your early childhood experience was that everybody in your home was unhappy, you may have formed the belief that you would never be happy.
Unsurprisingly, unless this belief can be identified and understood, the chances are you will continue to live the belief, rather like a self fulfilling prophecy.
For people who have chronic difficulties relating to other people, either by being ‘over controlled emotionally’ (as in obsessive compulsive personality disorder) or ‘under controlled emotionally’ (as in borderline personality disorder), schema focused therapy can help identify those aspects of their personality that might be feeding their unhelpful behaviours.
Once you know what the problem is, it is then much easier to fix.
Fortunately the person who developed schema therapy, Jeffrey Young PhD, also developed an extremely useful personality test which can help identify some of the more common unhelpful schemas, and I often give this questionnaire to clients who might benefit.