What is a Schema in Schema Therapy? The 18 maladaptive early schemas.

Schemas form based on an interaction between our inborn temperament and childhood experiences, especially unmet core emotional needs. Schemas form the basis for life long patterns that we re-enact when our schemas are triggered.

A schema is a combination of a belief, memories, physical sensations and emotions. It is the combination of those things that make our schema patterns difficult to change by challenging our unhelpful thoughts alone. That is why schema therapy integrates a range of therapy techniques focused on reducing and healing schema patterns and related coping modes.

The ISST website defines schemas as: “broad, pervasive themes regarding oneself and one’s relationship with others, developed during childhood and elaborated throughout one’s lifetime, and dysfunctional to a significant degree.”

“Schemas develop in childhood from an interplay between the child’s innate temperament, and the child’s ongoing damaging experiences with parents, siblings, or peers.


Because they begin early in life, schemas become familiar and thus comfortable. We distort our view of the events in our lives in order to maintain the validity of our schemas. Schemas may remain dormant until they are activated by situations relevant to that particular schema.”

I have written about all 18 early maladaptive schemas:

emotional deprivation,

abandonment,

mistrust/abuse,

defectiveness/ shame,

social isolation/alienation

subjugation

self-sacrifice

approval seeking

vulnerability to harm and illness,

failure,

incompetence/dependence

enmeshment and underdeveloped self

entitlement

insufficient control/self-discipline

unrelenting standards/ hypercriticalness

punitiveness

negativity/pessimism

emotional inhibition