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Healthy Adult Qualities

by David Bernstein & Limor Navot


In this workshop, we introduce a new model of the Healthy Adult, and show how methods from Positive Psychology, which emphasize human potential and positive mental states, can mobilize patients’ existing strengths and create new ones. The aims of the workshop are to learn to: 1) assess positive qualities and choose which ones to focus on mobilizing or creating, 2) “neutralize” maladaptive modes by stimulating corresponding positive qualities, 3) promote reality testing when patients confuse their schema modes and external reality, and 4) use “micro credits” to transform maladaptive modes to healthy ones.

Teaching Methods:

This workshop will emphasize “learning through doing”. We will use individual and group exercises to give participants a vivid, personal experience of the strengths building approach, and how it can be integrated into Schema Therapy.
The focus of the exercises is on identifying and promoting the growth of personal strengths, based on the new model of the Healthy Adult (“the 16 Qualities of the Healthy Adult”). In this model, strengths, schema modes, and emotional needs interact with each other. For example, schema mode activation can make it more difficult to access strengths, such as when addictive behavior (e.g., Detached Self-Soother mode) interferes with healthy habits. Conversely, building healthy habits (e.g., Self-care) buffers us against maladaptive schema modes. Healthy functioning and states of well-being come from small, everyday choices grounded in mindful awareness of schema modes. These small, everyday efforts build up the Healthy Adult mode over time, increasing one’s ability to meet emotional needs and enhance life satisfaction.

Participants will work with new strengths-based tools developed by D. Bernstein. The tools are: 1) a brief adjective checklist (BL48) assessing the 16 personal strengths; 2) a set of cards, the “Qualities of the Healthy Adult,” which depicts these strengths with cartoon- like images, similar to the Bernstein iModes; and 3) the “Healthy Adult Boat Card,” which uses the visual metaphor of a sailboat to depict a person’s life voyage from stormy to calm waters. The ultimate goal of the life voyage is to get one’s emotional needs met.
Exercise 1- Participants will assess their own personal strengths by completing the BL48. They will work in small groups to experience the benefits of sharing their strengths with other people. Exercise 2 - In the next small group exercise, they will receive a short case description of a patient (blinded to any identifying information) who was treated in Schema Therapy, using this new strengths building approach. They will use the strengths finding tools to create an integrated picture of the patient that includes modes, needs, and strengths. One person will play the therapist, one person the patient, and one person an observer who will facilitate the process (the “whisperer”). They will take turns in the different roles. The goal of the exercise is to help the patient identify her own strengths, and to decide on one or two strengths to better mobilize or further develop. Exercise 3 - Finally, we will explain the use of the micro credits approach that helps promote awareness of maladaptive schema modes and healthy choices. In the same small groups, the therapist will guide the patient through the use of the microcredit log book, where the patient can keep track of moments when she became aware of her maladaptive modes, and earn micro credits for taking small steps in a healthy direction.

Learning Objectives:

1) To familiarize participants with the concept of strengths finding and how it can be integrated into Schema Therapy.
2) To understand how maladaptive schema modes and personal strengths interact with one another, and how they in turn affect one’s ability to get emotional needs met.
3) To gain experience in using new strengths-based tools for Schema Therapy.
4) To learn to conceptualize cases using a new, integrative model that includes schema modes, emotional needs, and personal strengths.
5) To experience the personal benefits of using a strengths-based approach to identify one’s own strengths.
6) To learn how to select the particular strengths to focus on mobilizing or building in Schema Therapy.
7) To learn how to use the micro credits approach to help the patient bring mindful awareness and healthy choices to situations in which maladaptive schema modes are triggered.
8) To experience how the strengths based approach makes the patient a more active participant in the development of her own Healthy Adult mode.

Workshop Intended For:

Relevant Background Readings on the topic:

Alberts, H.J.E.M. (2018). The Sailboat Metaphor. Retrieved from www.positivepsychology.com.

Bach, B., & Bernstein, D. P. (2019). Schema therapy conceptualization of personality functioning and traits in ICD-11 and DSM-5. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 32(1), 38–49.

Bernstein, D. (2019). Building Strengths in Schema Therapy. Maastricht, The Netherlands: iModes Publications.

Roediger, E., Stevens, B., & Brockman, R. (2018). Contextual Schema Therapy: An Integrated Approach to Personality Disorders, Emotional Dysregulation, and Interpersonal Functioning. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY, US: Free Press. Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5-14.

Steel, P., Schmidt, J., & Shultz, J. (2008). Refining the relationship between personality and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 134(1): 138-161.

Strickhouser, J.E.; Zell, E.; and Krizan, Z. (2017). Does personality predict health and well-being? A metasynthesis. Health Psychology, 36(8): 797-810.

About the Presenters:

David Bernstein

Dr. David Bernstein is a Clinical Psychologist (PhD, New York University, 1990) and Associate Professor of Psychology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, where he has served as Professor of Forensic Psychotherapy (endowed chair, 2010-2018), and Chair of the Section on Forensic Psychology(2010-2015). He is a former President of the Association for Research on Personality Disorders (2001-2005) and Vice-President of the International Society for the Study of Personality Disorders (2003-2007). He was also Vice-President of the International Society of Schema Therapy(2010-2012) and is an Advanced Level Schema Therapist and Schema Therapy Supervisor. He is the author or coauthor of more than 120publications on psychotherapy, personality disorders, forensic psychology, childhood trauma, and addictions. He is the coauthor of Schema Therapy: Distinctive Features with Eshkol Rafaeli and Jeffrey Young and the DVD series, Schema Therapy: Working with Modes, with Remco van der Wijngaart.He is also the author of the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, a reliable and valid self-report questionnaire for child abuse and neglect, used worldwide. He is the creator of the iModes, a cartoon-based system for working with schema modes (www.i-Modes.com), and the founder of SafePath Solutions, a team-based program for adults and youth with personality disorders, aggression, and addiction (www.SafePath-Solutions.com). He was the Principal Investigator on a recently completed randomized clinical trial of Schema Therapy for forensic patients with personality disorders in the Netherlands.

Limor Navot:

coming soon

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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