How to strengthen your Healthy Adult Mode

In schema therapy, we help people to build and strengthen their Healthy Adult mode.

This is the side of a person who is wise, kind, self-compassionate and functions like a good parent.

Many people come to therapy with an underdeveloped Healthy Adult mode. Although their parents did their best, they may have lacked the ability and/or resources to meet my clients needs in a balanced way.

Instead, they have critic modes that criticize, punish, and mentally beat them up.

They often have coping modes that try to keep them away from their schema pain and keep the critic quiet at the same time.

Strengthening your Healthy Adult mode means that you learn how to meet your core emotional needs in a healthy and balanced way.

You may need help from a therapist to work on healing your schemas and reducing the loudness of your critic.

I find these three steps as outlined by Remco van der Wijnhaart (2015), useful for my clients to follow to help practise using their Healthy Adult Mode between sessions. Like with all skills, practice can help you master and strengthen your ability to meet your emotional needs.

The 3 steps of the Healthy Adult mode.

  1. Notice and take care of the feelings of your vulnerable child mode. Identify the feeling you are experiencing and offer empathy, validation, and any other emotional support you may need. For example “I am feeling hurt right now”. That’s understandable and a lot of people would feel this way in this situation”.
  2. Offer hope and a different perspective: Remind yourself that these feelings are temporary and won’t last forever. For example “Even though it feels overwhelming right now, this feeling will pass” “I’ve felt this way before and I’ve got through it” and “it’s possible that even though this is upsetting my schemas are making things seem way worse than they are.”
  3. Deal with the situation The third and final step of the Healthy Adult is to deal with the situation. Dealing with what situation may mean different things. This can be dealing with your inner critic or coping mode that contributed to why you experienced painful feelings. It may also mean making healthy choices to solve a problem or cope with a difficult situation.  

Most people I work with in therapy go straight to step 3. “deal with the situation” when they are having a strong emotional reaction. Our culture teaches us that action and strategy are what works and to bypass feelings. So I often find my clients tell themselves things like “just forget about it”, “get busy” or “I’ll go for a walk”.

If you want to strengthen your Healthy Adult Mode, make sure you practice Step 1 as a priority. You may find my blog “What does little you need?” helpful to identify what you need.

This is key to successfully moving towards strengthening the Healthy Adult mode and adequately meeting your emotional needs.


van der Wijnhaart, R. (2015). Healthy Adult Mode: Ways to Strengthen the Healthy Adult of Our Patients. ISST Bulletin.


  • Nadene van der Linden

    Nadene van der Linden is a Clinical Psychologist, Accredited EMDR Consultant and Therapist and Advanced Certified Schema Therapist. Nadene has a special interest in trauma and uses active therapy approaches including schema therapy, EMDR, and chairwork therapy techniques. Nadene is a Board Approved Supervisor and supervises and mentors psychologists and other mental health therapists. Nadene offers online training for therapists at van der Linden Nadene