A schema is a stable, enduring negative pattern that develops during childhood or adolescence and is reinforced through thoughts, core beliefs, actions and relationships throughout an individual’s life. Negative schemas develop when core childhood needs are not met.
Identifying schemas in counseling is an innovative, integrated therapeutic approach, originally developed as an expansion of traditional cognitive–behavioral treatments. Schema therapy emphasizes lifelong patterns, affective change techniques, and the therapeutic relationship, integrating all of these strategies as opposed to focusing on just one of them.
When a schema erupts or is triggered by events, your thoughts and feelings are dominated by these schemas. It is at these moments that you tend to experience extreme negative emotions and have dysfunctional thoughts.
Many of my clients are reluctant to talk about their childhood because they feel that approach has been exhausted in previous therapy experiences. My focus is identifying schemas that may be activated and affecting current functioning, while also exploring possible childhood experiences that could have manifested in these enduring patterns. However, together we address current issues and how to change the schemas while not dwelling on the past, which we cannot change. As you can imagine, there are many “aha, now I get it” moments. Understanding the origin of our thoughts, attitudes, and behavior is the first step in making the changes necessary to live a more fulfilling life.