Schema Therapy for the Treatment for Eating Disorders

Schema therapy is an integrative, unifying theory and treatment. It is designed for clients with complex, chronic and entrenched difficulties.
These include people with personality disorders and who have significant origins in childhood and adolescent development.

Schema therapy is a useful therapy when cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) gets ‘stuck’.
And for people who use narratives such as “this is the way I am/have always been” to describe their disorder.

In psychology, a schema describes a pattern of thought or behaviour that organises categories of information and the relationships among them. It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world or a system of organising and perceiving new information.

An easy way to understand this concept is by; imagine a friendly alien coming down to earth. You meet and have a discussion. The alien asks you to explain what is meant by visiting a dentist, as they don’t have them on their planet. You begin to explain that it is a place to go to have your teeth cared for. You continue to describe the steps that you and the majority of people would expect. For instance, you call the dentist office; the receptionist offers you a day and time to visit. You arrive at on the day, and report to the receptionist, you take a seat; there may be magazines that you read and so on… You can describe the series of events in great detail because it has become a schema. If as a child you had a bad experience at the dentist then perhaps you would inform the alien that it is a place that gives great pain.

Based on your experiences in childhood early maladaptive schemas and schema modes develop when specific, core childhood needs are not met.

Five Core Emotional Childhood Needs:

  • Secure attachments to others (includes safety, stability, nurturance and acceptance).
  • Autonomy, competence and sense of identity.
  • Freedom to express valid needs and emotions.
  • Spontaneity and play.
  • Realistic limits and self-control.

Broad Goal of Schema Therapy:

  • To help clients get their core needs met .
  • In an adaptive manner.
  • Through changing maladaptive schemas, coping styles/responses and modes.

Schema Therapy blends CBT with elements of Gestalt therapy, object relations, constructionist and psychoanalytic therapies in order to treat characterological difficulties.

The difference between CBT and Schema therapy is the latter emphasizes is on lifelong patterns.

Therapy can seem daunting at first but with expert care you will be assisted every step of the way to help you in recovery.