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What Are Schema Modes

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09:00 AM

Schema Therapy was developed by Jeffrey Young to assist treatment resistant clients and those with long-standing disorders. Schemas, as defined by Young are:

  • wide-ranging and persistent patterns or themes
  • encompassing memories, emotions, cognitions, and bodily sensations
  • concerning ourselves and our relationship with others
  • originating in childhood or adolescence
  • embellished throughout our life and
  • substantially dysfunctional.

When in emotional distress, because early maladaptive schemas are being triggered or potentially triggered, people use certain ways of coping. These ways of coping can be categorised into three coping styles – overcompensation, avoidance, and surrender. These might remind of us of – fight, flight, or freeze. When a schema is activated, and a coping response is elicited, what results is a schema mode.

Individuals who use the schema mode, overcompensation, are attempting to mask or compensate for underlying emotional vulnerabilities or needs by adopting a larger-than-life attitude or extreme behaviours. This works in defence of their emotional well-being. They might exhibit perfectionistic, over-controlling or attention-seeking behaviours. They might manipulator or bully others, attacking before they are attacked.

Those who use the avoidance schema mode are trying to suppress or avoid distressing or uncomfortable feelings. They want to dodge feelings of vulnerability or helplessness, or perhaps they want to suppress feelings of anger or frustration to avoid conflict or rejection. However, these avoidance strategies can often lead to emotional distress, relationship difficulties, and maladaptive coping behaviours.

People who draw on surrender as a coping mode might feel a sense of helplessness and apathy in the face of difficult emotions. Perhaps they feel overwhelmed by their emotions or circumstances and believe that they have no control over their lives. They may give up easily, avoid taking action, or engage in self-destructive behaviours as a way to cope with feeling powerless. They might find setting boundaries difficult or saying no to others and might engage in negative self-talk.

The antidote to maladaptive coping modes is the healthy adult mode, where an individual is compassionate, able to set limits, is wise, assertive, and empathetic towards themselves and others.  Schema Therapy is aimed at helping people identify and understand their schema modes and in developing healthier coping strategies while strengthening their healthy adult mode.

To find out more about schema therapy or to book in with one of our psychologists contact us on 0479 149 277.