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"Maybe I will, Maybe I wont." Working with Motivation, Ambivalence and Resistance in Schema Therapy

by ST Kristy Gilings, and Chris Hayes


This workshop aims to help attendees integrate motivational principles into their practice of schema therapy; for the purpose of overcoming therapeutic impasses, ambivalence about, and resistance to, change. The principles of motivational enhancement will be introduced and guidance given on how they can be incorporated into the implementation of schema therapy techniques and embodied in limited reparenting. The workshop aims to instill an appreciation of the dynamic rather than linear nature of change processes and the potential contribution that therapist schema and mode activation can make in perpetuating resistance.

Teaching Methods:

A combination of teaching methods will be used including:
-Didactic presentation of theoretical concepts of motivation and their integration into schema therapy.
-Live demonstration (e.g., of assessment and formulation of motivational issues, motivational enhancement in formulation-sharing). -Technical demonstration (e.g., of motivational chairwork, imagery rescripting to understand blocks to change) – demonstration may be live or through the use of DVD material.
-Dyadic role play/real play with motivational issues (e.g., practice of experiential techniques). We will encourage use of real play to promote a genuine lived experience of ambivalence/resistance and to allow “therapists” in role to receive live feedback from their “client” on their motivational approach (i.e., reflection-in-action).
-Self-disclosure (in dyads/small groups depending on number of workshop attendees) – to promote reflection-on-action on therapist patterns triggered by working with clients with motivational issues and to explore solutions.

Learning Objectives:

Changing life patterns, addictive behaviours, relationships and self-destructive behaviour are core elements of schema therapy. Furthermore, schema therapy is generally a long-term treatment where the client’s motivation to engage in change can be a challenge for therapists to harness. To effect change, schema therapists need to be able to accurately detect, assess and enhance motivation and engagement to achieve the best clinical outcomes. The therapeutic relationship and the stance the schema therapist adopts are central to assisting the client in working through ambivalence to a position of commitment. This workshop will particularly appeal to therapists who work with clients whose behaviours that are highly reinforcing (e.g., those with overcompensating or self-soothing/stimulating modes) and who as a consequence find it difficult to maintain behaviour change.

In this workshop, attendees will learn several ways to integrate a motivational approach into schema therapy.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the workshop, attendees will be able to:

-Understand the concepts of motivation, ambivalence and resistance as they relate to behaviour change.
- Understand the core principles of motivational enhancement and how they can be integrated into limited reparenting.
- Assess the client’s level of motivation to change.
- Formulate motivational issues in schema and mode terms.
- Communicate the formulation effectively to the client using motivational engagement principles to minimise resistance.
- Use chair work to address ambivalence and increase motivation to change.
- Use imagery rescripting to understand blocks to change.
- Employ empathic confrontation to assist with motivational enhancement.
- Recognise their own schema and mode activation with clients who have motivational issues and how this may affect therapeutic progress.

Workshop Intended For:


Relevant Background Readings on Topic:

Denning, P., & Little (2012). Practicing harm reduction psychotherapy: Al alternative approach to addictions. New York: Guilford Press Ekleberry, S. (2009). Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders: Personality disorders and addiction. New York: Routledge Hayes, C., & van der Wijngaart, R. (2018). Fine tuning chair work in schema therapy. DVD: Storyhorse Productions.
Kellogg, S. (2015). Transformational chairwork. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield

Miller, W., & Rollnick, S. (2013). Motivational interviewing 3rd ed: Helping people change. New York: Guilford Press

About the Presenters:

ST Kirsty Gilings:

Kirsty Gillings, Clinical Psychologist, Advanced Certified Schema Therapist
Kirsty is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and an advanced certified schema therapist, supervisor and trainer. She has significant experience working with dual diagnosis and complex trauma. She currently works in the National Health Service in Scotland leading teams who specialise in the psychological treatment of psychosis, addiction and other chronic mental health conditions. 

Chris Hayes:

Chris is a Clinical Psychologist and Advanced Schema Therapist based in Perth, Western Australia. He has had extensive experience in both government and private settings working with clients with complex psychological presentations. Since 2005, he has been practicing as an advanced Schema Therapist, supervisor and trainer having completed certification in Schema Therapy at the Schema Therapy Institute in New York City (USA) with Dr Jeffery Young. He is the Director of Schema Therapy Training Australia and presented workshops throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia. 
In addition to the provision of Schema Therapy training and supervision, he is currently employed with the Health Department of Western Australia as a Senior Clinical Psychologist (within a specialist service working with those who have experienced recent or childhood sexual trauma). 

He has co-produced 2 DVD/ video releases "Fine Tuning Imagery Rescripting" and “Fine Tuning Chair Work in Schema Therapy", both of which are highly recommended (and the 1st of their kind internationally).  He has previously served as Secretary of the Board for the International Society of Schema therapy (ISST).

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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