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I. Assessment

  • Identify schemas of each partner, and define the default relationship mode cycle
  • Use assessment inventories: YSQ-3, YPI, SMI, BDI, BAI, DAS, WC, etc. 
  • Conceptualize schemas and the default mode cycle
  • Link childhood wounds and maladaptive relationship patterns to current relationship, and identify strengths of the relationship
  • Introduce Schema Flashcard, Mode Mapping, Mode Clash Card, Needs vs. Wants Tool
  • Identify schema chemistry and schema clashes
  • Assess degree of passion, romance, intimacy, and sexual satisfaction
  • Determine if any complicating factors (levels of commitment, individual past trauma or disorders, injuries in the relationship, etc.) and/or contraindications (active affairs, addictions, patterns of violence, etc.)
  • Find supplemental resources or treatment, as needed
  • Create "Needs Road Map"
  • Identify vision of the love relationship: goals, dreams, mission, desired legacy 
  • Establish goals of treatment, and set the time frame

II. Therapeutic Relationship Strategies

  • Create and maintain a secure therapeutic bond
  • Apply a therapist stance of being flexible, active, and directive
  • Practice "empathic confrontation," as needed
  • Use therapeutic self-disclosure
  • Intervene when therapist's own schemas and modes are activated in-session
  • Differentiate between the "wants" and the "needs" of the therapist and the couple
  • Repair ruptures in the therapeutic relationship
  • Discuss ethics and confidentiality concerns with the couple (disclosures, consultation with other therapists, conflicts of interest, confidentiality issues, etc.)

III. Interventions and Change Strategies

  • Connecting Dialogues: provide antidotes to schemas and maladaptive modes by identifying and expressing (1) core emotions (2) urges to cope. Next, use adaptive coping modes to invite partner to meet needs
  • Chair Work: use mode dialogues to address mode cycle and schemas
  • Imagery Rescripting: identify childhood origins of schemas, link to current relationship, create antidote to schema origins while deepening emotional depth and increasing emotional connection
  • Use tools to shift clashes: Mode Clash Cards, Schema Flashcards, Meta-perspective, "Needs vs. Wants" tool, etc. 
  • Couples Toolbox: assign homework to solidify work in-between sessions

IV. Solidifying Change and Preventing Relapse

  • Develop a language for deeper emotional connection
  • Build shared meaning in roles, rituals, goals, values, dreams
  • Create a shared narrative of the couple's story, including desired legacy
  • Build and sustain mutually satisfying passion, romance, intimacy, and sexual satisfaction, and address any sexual dysfunctions
  • Solidify mode cycles to create antidotes to schemas with interactions involving (a.) self-and-partner soothing (b.) inviting bids (c.) successful repairs (d.) stance of curiosity and acceptance

V. Treating Diffucult Couples 

  • Address and heal relationship injuries (affairs, betrayals, other significant injuries)
  • Confront addictions, aggressive modes, and patterns of physical violence
  • Treat couples with survivors of childhood trauma (sexual, emotional, physical) 
  • Treat specific personality disorders in a couple (BPD, NPD, Avoidant, Antisocial, etc.)

Why Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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