Schema Therapy Techniques

What are Typical Schema Therapy Techniques?

Start Step 1While schema therapy uses traditional cognitive and behavioral techniques, its hallmark is the incorporation of more experiential-emotional and interpersonal techniques to promote higher levels of emotion in sessions. The rationale for promoting affect in session is that deeper change can occur when we can reach the emotional side of the brain. In traditional CBT, clients with rigid, long-standing maladaptive core beliefs may state, “I understand that what I am thinking is not true but it feels true.” In schema therapy, we try to bypass the Detached Protector to reach the Vulnerable Child in order to modify schemas.

Cognitive Techniques in Schema Therapy

While any cognitive techniques can be used in schema therapy, some typical interventions include schema diaries, pros and cons of schemas and coping styles and schema flashcards.

Schema Diaries

A Schema Diary is a form filled out in-between sessions that provides a guide for the you to organize your experience when schemas or modes are triggered. Schema driven reactions are sorted out in terms of thoughts, feelings, behaviors, underlying schemas and modes, healthy perspectives and realistic concerns, overreactions, and healthy behavior. The schema diary can be an important tool to further the development of the healthy adult.

Flash Cards

Flash cards are written or audio statements that you can use in-between sessions. They are developed by the therapist or by you and the therapist and are statements that would be similar to those made by a parent to a young child at the developmental age that you are currently experiencing your Vulnerable Child mode. They serve as links to the therapist and, as such, as transitional objects; especially in the early phases of treatment of work on problems rooted in early attachment. The messages and sentiments expressed in the cards are gradually internalized and, thus, are very helpful in developing the Healthy Adult mode. Flash cards are often developed for each type of challenging situation and phase of treatment.

Behavioral Techniques in Schema Therapy

Some behavioral techniques that may be used in schema therapy include assertiveness training to overcome the compliant surrenderer, empathy training for entitlement schemas and modes, and exposure tasks to overcome avoidance modes, among many others.

Experiential-Emotional Techniques in Schema Therapy

Experiental-emotional techniques are frequently used in schema therapy to increase affect in session and create emotional change through imagery, role plays and two-chair work.


The right hemisphere of the brain is the dominant hemisphere during early childhood and most early maladaptive schemas are believed to be stored there. The right hemisphere has the strongest links with the limbic part of the brain (the seat of our emotions) and, consequently, is directly connected to our deepest and most powerful feelings. Imagery is an important method to gain direct access to the “vulnerable child” and the associated “gut level” feelings that make up schemas.

Guided imagery is often used early in schema therapy to more clearly and deeply understand schemas and modes by:

  • Eliciting upsetting childhood memories in the form of images of experiences with mother, father and other significant people.
  • Asking you to carry on dialogues with these people.
  • Asking you what you need from significant others and understanding these needs in terms of the associated schemas.
  • Asking you to identify what current situations have the same emotions as the images from early childhood and clarifying the links between early memories and current triggers of schemas and modes.

Imagery is also an important element of the change phase. Through “imagery re-scripting,” painful memories are revised in ways that allow you to get your needs met. In instances where parents or significant others were, and remain, unable to meet the your needs, this involves the therapist entering into the image and serving as a transitional source of healthy parenting. This leads to a secure attachment developing between you and your therapist, which leads to growth and integration. Imagery during the change phase may also involve encouraging you to express anger towards the individuals who hurt you and helping you assert your rights.

Chair work

Chair work involves having you move between two chairs as you speak to the between different parts of yourself such as a schema side and the healthy side or a Detached Protector Mode and the Healthy Adult Mode. Dialogues can also take place between you and imagined significant others for such purposes as reaching closure or practicing assertiveness. Imagery work and chair work are frequently blended with one another.

Interpersonal Techniques in Schema Therapy

Schema therapy places great emphasis on the therapist-client relationship. Some major interpersonal strategies include working with schema triggers that occur within the therapy relationship, limited reparenting and empathic confrontation.

Limited Reparenting

The process of limited reparenting is at the heart of schema therapy and is one of its most unique and defining elements. Just as the process of parenting takes many different forms, limited reparenting may involve warmth and nurturance, firmness, self-disclosure, confrontation, playfulness, and setting limits, among other things. Limited reparenting may involve reaching the Vulnerable Child Mode and being reassuring or being firm with or setting limits on the avoidant and over-compensating modes that block access to the Vulnerable Child. In addition, it often requires that the therapist help the client fight punitive, demanding, or subjugating parent modes or schemas. Limited reparenting is usually facilitated by the use of guided imagery.

Empathic Confrontation

Empathic confrontation means recognizing that negative behavior comes from a place of pain and confusion, and then setting limits. The art of empathic confrontation centers on confronting negative behaviors, while making links to the client’s early childhood schemas and coping styles. In doing so, the therapist is more likely to achieve a feeling of genuine compassion for the client while enabling the client to hear how his/her behavior may be coming across to other people in his/her life.


How to Get Help for X in San Jose/Saratoga and Sacramento/Roseville

The Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center in Silicon Valley (San Jose/Saratoga) and Sacramento Valley (Roseville) specializes in X therapy and counseling with adults, children and teenagers. 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 or your family members overcome X.

Silicon Valley and Sacramento Valley Communities We Serve

Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center of Silicon Valley offers evidence-based 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 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
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