What is Schema-Focused Therapy?

In This Article:

If you need help,
we’re here for you.
Contact us today.

Get Help

100% Confidential
Pasadena Villa
Locations & Programs
Smoky Mountain Lodge
(Sevierville, TN)
Intensive Residential Treatment and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)
The Stables Autism Program
(Sevierville, TN)
Intensive Residential Treatment

Schema focused therapy is a form of psychotherapy that combines aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy, experiential therapy and interpersonal therapy. Schema therapy creator Dr. Jeff Young defined the term schema as a “life trap” or a pattern of negative behaviors that an individual repeats over and over again throughout their adult life. As Young saw it, individuals that benefited the most from schema focused therapy were those that displayed self-defeating thought patterns and behaviors and didn’t respond well to traditional forms of psychotherapy.

People that struggle with psychiatric and other co-occurring disorders often exhibit various types of negative thinking patterns or schemas. This form of destructive thinking is developed during a client’s adolescent years via their life experiences, particularly with family members. Typical statements that you’ll hear from someone that have harmful and negative thinking patterns include “I’m worthless”, “I’m not good enough” or “No one loves me”. In order to effectively address and improve a client’s thinking patterns; three stages must first take place between the client and therapist.

  1. The therapist identifies the client’s schemas or life traps through conversation or even questionnaires.
  2. The therapist helps the client become more aware of their schemas and learn how to recognize them in their everyday lives.
  3. The client becomes more involved in improving their thinking patterns outside of treatment and replaces them with more positive thoughts for more positive outcomes.


Dr. Jeff Young had spent time working alongside Dr. Aaron Beck, the creator of cognitive behavioral therapy, when he created schema focused therapy. Through years of clinical observation, Young identified 18 schemas or attitudes that the average client tends to display. These schemas include

  • Punitiveness – The idea that individuals need to be punished for making mistakes.
  • Mistrust – The preconceived notion that other individuals will hurt or manipulate you.
  • Failure – The belief that one will fail in virtually all endeavors.
  • Entitlement – The belief that one is entitled to special privileges.
  • Poor Self-Discipline or Self-Control – When a person has difficulty achieving personal goals on their own.
  • Approval Seeking – Always attempts to gain validation or attention from others.
  • Subjugation – Excessively surrenders control to others in an effort to avoid conflict.
  • Self-Sacrifice – Delays personal gratification in order to meet the needs of others.
  • Vulnerability to Harm – Unjustifiable fear that you could be harmed at any given time.
  • Defectiveness and Shame – The idea that one is unwanted or insignificant to others.
  • Enmeshment – Excessive and unhealthy emotional involvement with other individuals.
  • Dependence and Incompetence – The idea that one cannot satisfy their daily responsibilities and needs others to help them complete simple tasks.
  • Social Isolation and Alienation – A lack of a sense of belonging with other groups of people.
  • Abandonment – Feelings of a lack of emotional support and connection with those around you.
  • Emotional Deprivation – An individual’s desired level of emotional support cannot be met by others.
  • Negativity and Pessimism – Excessive focus on the negative aspects of one’s life.
  • Emotional Inhibition – The inability to show feelings and communicate in a relaxed and natural manner.
  • Unrelenting Standards – The idea that one must meet unreachable goals in order to avoid criticism from others.


Schema focused therapy has been proven to be extremely effective when combined with cognitive behavioral therapy as well as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Together, the therapies show the client how to actually achieve beneficial change through action rather than just receiving advice and insight from a therapist.

Pasadena Villa is a network of mental health treatment centers offering a wide variety of evidence-based behavioral therapies. Pasadena Villa also offers a one of a kind Social Integration Model that helps our residents improve their cognitive and social skills and become more independent after leaving treatment. We currently offer treatment at two residential locations in both Orlando, Florida and Knoxville, Tennessee, and outpatient services in Raleigh, North Carolina. If you would like to inquire about enrolling yourself or a loved one, please call our admissions office at 407-215-2519 or fill out our contact formOur staff will gladly answer your questions and walk you through the admissions process. Most major insurance plans are accepted; clients and their families also have the option to pay privately.




If you’re ready to start your recovery, we’re here to help.

Contact us today.

Our treatment centers accept private payment, out-of-network benefits, and in-network benefits.

Our Admissions Team is available at 407.215.2519 to discuss your payment options.

Recent Posts

If you’re ready to take the next step in the recovery process for you or your loved one, the compassionate team at Pasadena Villa is here to help. Give us a call at 407.215.2519 or complete our contact form.

Looking for treatment?

Subscribe to Our Monthly Newsletter

Get exclusive resources, find inspiration, and grow alongside us. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter now!