Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy is an expansion of cognitive behaviour therapy and is based on the idea that aversive experiences and frustration of basic childhood needs (safety, love, attention, acceptance, and autonomy) lead in interaction with biological and cultural factors to the development of maladaptive schemas. Schemas are defined as organised patterns of information processing compromising thoughts, emotions, memories, and attention preferences. Schemas have a strong impact on how individuals view themselves, their relationships to others and the world.
Schemas represents specific, unmet emotional needs across a range of domains including:
- Emotional deprivation
- Social Isolation/alienation
- Vulnerability to harm
- Enmeshment/underdeveloped self
- Insufficient self-control/self-discipline
- Approval seeking/recognition seeking
- Emotional inhibition
- Unrelenting standards
When maladaptive schemas gets activated, associated painful emotions arise. In order to deal with these intensive emotions, coping strategies (surrender, avoidance, overcompensation) are developed that attenuate aversive emotions but impair adaptive interpersonal and self-regulatory behaviour.
The intial goal is to identify one's schemas, their roots, and their present influence. Subsequent goals include healing schemas, modifying self-defeating patterns, adopting constructive coping styles, and making changes that promote the fulfilment of core emotional needs and the formation of healthy and satisfying relationships.
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