Schemas are unhelpful beliefs and patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that were formed early in a person’s life, and then have continued to the present day. They beliefs are so deeply held that they are just felt as ‘the way things are’. An example of this might be the ‘mistrust/abuse’ schema, where the person believes that ‘others will just let you down, you can’t trust anyone’. Another is the ‘unrelenting standards’ schema, believing that one must always strive to be their absolute best and achieve, or else they don’t feel quite good enough in themselves. These become ways of seeing the world, oneself and other people, and then the person is driven to act in ways associated with the schema. The person who holds an unrelenting standards schema for instance, may push themselves so hard at work and in other areas that they never have time to relax and have fun, or procrastinate a lot to avoid all the tasks they feel overwhelmed by.
If your treating psychologist believes this approach will be useful for you, counselling will involve helping you understand the repeating patterns in your life and the origins of these, and then challenge them using discussion, ‘experiential’ techniques such as imagery and chair role-play, and behaviour change strategies, such as learning how to become more assertive, to set limits on work, or to change the way you approach relationships. Our clients find this counselling approach very helpful.