Schema Modes in Schema Therapy

What are Schema Modes?

Mood FacesThe original model used early maladaptive schemas as the unifying framework. The most recent development has added the concept of modes. A mode refers to a part of the self that is expressed through the predominant state that we are in at a given point in time. A schema refers to a trait, or a more permanent, stable part of the self. A mode consists of our current mood state, as well as behaviors and cognitions. Modes are seen as existing along a continuum of dissociation. On the one end are modes that flexibly shift and blend to appropriate degrees and forms of expression as called for by the situation.

Why Work with Schema Modes?

Many people identify with most of the 18 early maladaptive schemas. In addition, there is often rapid shifting between various schemas and coping strategies. Talking with someone about all the schemas he/she has and attempting to track them can be overwhelming for both the client and therapist. Modes condense processes related to multiple rapidly shifting schemas and coping strategies into four relatively simple constructs: Healthy Adult, Innate Child Modes, Maladaptive Coping Modes and Maladaptive Parent Modes. It then becomes much easier for the therapist and client to track the rapid shifts among these modes. The mode construct allows the therapist to ally with the healthy adult mode of the client by joining with him/her in labeling and responding to problematic modes that threaten to take over the client and the therapy.

What are the Schema Modes?


This mode performs appropriate adult functions such as obtaining information, evaluating, problem-solving, working, parenting. Takes responsibility for choices and actions, and makes and keeps to commitments. In a balanced way, pursues activities that are likely to be fulfilling in work, intimate and social relationships, sporting, cultural and service-related activities.



Lonely Child: Feels like a lonely child that is valued only insofaras (s)he can aggrandise his/her parents. Because the most important emotional needs of the child have generally not been met, the patient usually feels empty, alone, socially unacceptable, undeserving of love, unloved and unlovable.

Abandoned and Abused Child: Feels the enormous emotional pain and fear of abandonment, which has a direct link with the abuse history. Has the affect of a lost child: sad, frightened, vulnerable, defenceless, hopeless, needy, victimised, worthless and lost. Patients appear fragile and childlike. They feel helpless and utterly alone and are obsessed with finding a parent figure who will take care of them.

Humiliated/Inferior Child: A subtype of the Abandoned and Abused Child mode, in which patients experience humiliation and inferiority related to childhood experiences within and outside the family.

Dependent Child: Feels incapable and overwhelmed by adult responsibilities. Shows strong regressive tendencies and wants to be taken care of. Related to the lack of development of autonomy and self-reliance, often caused by authoritarian upbringing.


Angry Child: Feels intensely angry, enraged, infuriated, frustrated or inpatient, because the core emotional (or physical) needs of the vulnerable child are not being met. They vent their suppressed anger in inappropriate ways. May make demands that seem entitled or spoiled and that alienate others.

Enraged Child: Experiences intense feelings of anger that results in hurting or damaging people or objects. The displayed anger is out of control, and has the goal of destroying the aggressor, sometimes literally. Has the affect of an enraged or uncontrollable child, screaming or acting out impulsively to an (alleged) perpetrator.

Impulsive Child: Acts on non-core desires or impulses from moment to moment in a selfish or uncontrolled manner to get his or her own way, without regard to possible consequences for the self or others. Often has difficulty delaying short-time gratification and may appear `spoiled`.

Undisciplined Child: Cannot force him/herself to finish routine or boring tasks, gets quickly frustrated and gives up soon.

Feels at peace because core emotional needs are currently met. Feels loved, contented, connected, satisfied, fulfilled, protected, praised, worthwhile, nurtured, guided, understood, validated, self-confident, competent, appropriately autonomous or self-reliant, safe, resilient, strong, in control, adaptable, optimistic and spontaneous.



Compliant Surrenderer: Acts in a passive, subservient, submissive, reassurance-seeking, or self-deprecating way towards others out of fear of conflict or rejection. Passively allows him/herself to be mistreated, or does not take steps to get healthy needs met. Selects people or engages in other behaviour that directly maintains the self-defeating schema-driven pattern.

Surrender to Damaged Child Modes: In these modes individuals behave as if they are like the child, with the same beliefs, emotions and behaviours as when the childhood pattern was set up.


Detached Protector: Withdraws psychologically from the pain of the schemas by emotionally detaching. The patient shuts off all emotions, disconnects from others and rejects their help, and functions in an almost robotic manner. May remain quite functional.

Detached Self-Soother: Shut off their emotions by engaging in activities that will somehow soothe, stimulate or distract them from feeling. These behaviours are usually undertaken in an addictive or compulsive way, and can include workaholism, gambling, dangerous sports, promiscuous sex, or drug abuse. Another group of patients compulsively engages in solitary interests that are more self-soothing than self-stimulating, such as playing computer games, overeating, watching television, or fantasizing.

Avoidant Protector: Avoids triggering by behavioural avoidance – keeps away from situations of cues that my trigger distress.

Angry Protector: Uses a ‘wall of anger’ to protect him/herself from others who are perceived as threatening. Displays of anger serve to keep others at a safe distance to protect against being hurt.


Attention and Approval Seeker: Tries to get other people’s attention and approval by extravagant, inappropriate and exaggerated behaviour. Usually compensates for underlying loneliness.

Self-Aggrandiser: Behaves in an entitled, competitive, grandiose, abusive, or status-seeking way in order to have whatever they want. They are almost completely self-absorbed, and show little empathy for the needs or feelings of others. They demonstrate superiority and expect to be treated as special and do not believe they should have to follow the rules that apply to everyone else. They crave for admiration and frequently brag or behave in a self-aggrandizing manner to inflate their sense of self.

Overcontroller: Attempts to protect self from a perceived or real threat by focusing attention, ruminating, and exercising extreme control.

  • Perfectionistic Overcontroller: Focuses on perfectionism to attain control and prevent misfortune and criticism.
  • Suspicious Overcontroller: Focuses on vigilance, scanning other people for signs of malevolence, and controls others’ behaviour out of suspiciousness.
  • Scolding Overcontroller: Controls the behaviour of others by blaming, criticizing, and telling them how to do things in a dictatorial and scolding manner.

Bully and Attack: Directly harms other people in a controlled and strategic way emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally, or through antisocial or criminal acts. The motivation may be to overcompensate for prevent abuse or humiliation. Has sadistic properties.

Conning and Manipulative: Cons, lies, or manipulates in a manner designed to achieve a specific goal, which either involves victimising others or escaping punishment.

Predator: Focuses on eliminating a threat, rival, obstacle, or enemy in a cold, ruthless, and calculating manner.


Punitive Parent: The internalized voice of the parent, criticizing and punishing the patient. They become angry with themselves and feel that they deserve punishment for having or showing normal needs that their parents did not allow them to express. The tone of this mode is harsh, critical, and unforgiving. Sings and symptoms include self-loathing, self-criticism, self-denial, self-mutilation, suicidal fantasies, and self-destructive behaviour.

Demanding Parent: Continually pushes and pressures the child to meet excessively high standards. Feels that the `right` way to be is to be perfect or achieve at a very high level, to keep everything in order, to strive for high status, to be humble, to put other needs before one’s own or to be efficient or avoid wasting time. The person feels that it is wrong to express feelings or to act spontaneously.

How to Find Schema Therapy in San Jose/Saratoga and Sacramento/Roseville

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center in Silicon Valley (San Jose/Saratoga) and Sacramento Valley (Roseville) specializes in schema therapy. Call us in Saratoga at (408) 384-8404 or in Roseville at (916) 778-0771 or Click to send an email for more information on how we can help you using schema therapy.

Silicon Valley and Sacramento Valley Communities We Serve

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley offers evidence-based therapy using schema therapy for Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Eating Disorders near the following Silicon Valley/San Jose communities:

San Jose Therapy CounselingSaratoga Therapy CounselingLos Gatos Therapy Counseling Monte Sereno Therapy Counseling • Cupertino Therapy CounselingCampbell Therapy CounselingMountain View Therapy CounselingLos Altos Therapy CounselingSunnyvale Therapy CounselingSanta Clara Therapy Counseling

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Sacramento Valley offers evidence-based therapy using schema therapy for Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Eating Disorders near the following Sacramento Valley and Sierra communities:

Sacramento Therapy CounselingRoseville Therapy Counseling • Rocklin Therapy Counseling • Granite Bay Therapy Counseling • Lincoln Therapy CounselingFolsom Therapy Counseling • Citrus Heights Therapy Counseling •  El Dorado Hills Therapy Counseling • Loomis Therapy CounselingGrass Valley Therapy Counseling  • Auburn Therapy Counseling

Saratoga: (408) 384-8404
Roseville: (916) 778-0771
Click to send an email