Are you a chronic over-achiever or people pleaser? How Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy may help you!, by Erin Graves, LCSW
Are you a chronic over-achiever or people pleaser? How Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy may help you!
Are you a highly motivated and successful individual? Do you have excessive expectations of yourself or others? Do you feel no matter what you do, you aren’t good enough? Do you sacrifice your own happiness in order to please others? If any of these questions apply to you, then Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy may help!
In short, cognitive therapy helps people develop awareness about their thinking patterns. It helps us understand why we do what we do. There is nothing more frustrating than repeating the same patterns over and over and really having no understanding of why we do it. Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy specifically focuses on long-standing negative core beliefs about ourselves that typically originate in childhood. Core beliefs typically come from messages reinforced by family of origin, cultural or societal norms.
According to Cheri Huber’s book There is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self Hate, many of us have internalized conditioned beliefs that there is something wrong with us, and we are not good enough just as we are. This is where the schema categories perfectionism or people pleasing tend to show up. In order to over-compensate for feeling defective, we tend to look for external validation through accomplishments or pleasing others in attempts to validate ourselves by constantly “proving our worth”.
Often we may have limited awareness of this conditioning, as it has likely been around for years or even decades. These tendencies often operate from behind the scenes. I like to think of schema as a voice that has an almost imperceptible whisper. Unless we really tune in and listen to the subtle whisper of this voice, it will continue to reinforce negative core beliefs. This critical inner voice will continue to endure and strengthen over time if left unexamined. Alternatively, the schema may shout in a loud, obnoxious judgmental voice, criticizing what we say and do and never seems to shut up. Whether the voice of schema is loud or virtually imperceptible, it is helpful to know it is there influencing behaviors and the way we relate to ourselves and others.
It is important to recognize that many core beliefs from childhood were at one time helpful and adaptive to our survival, but as adults, these beliefs may be outdated and no longer serving our goals of fulfillment and self-actualization. Ironically we often identify with the conditioning, believe it to be true, and rationalize its existence as being helpful. No schema is entirely positive or negative, but with exploration we can discover which schema are activated behind the scenes and keeping us stuck in unhelpful patterns.
In Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy, we bring awareness and attention to these enduring core beliefs, and explore the possibility of modifying or changing them if they no longer serve our values or goals, or inhibit us from becoming our most fulfilled selves.
It is ironic that many highly successful individuals, despite their levels of outward success, continue to maintain negative core beliefs about their basic worthiness. As an example, the schema of unrelenting standards and perfectionism may be the subtle insistent whisper that leads an individual to success in their professional life, but the downside of this relentless schema, may be that this individual never truly feels good enough about their achievements or themselves. We may operate as if the love, unconditional acceptance and approval we seek is always out of reach or dependent upon external validation. We may perpetually lean forward into the future without ever feeling good enough in the present moment. Schema therapy can bring awareness to the positive and negative aspects of these core beliefs, and allow space for new, more balanced beliefs to emerge.
Jeffrey Young, the pioneer of Schema Therapy, identifies eighteen separate Early Maladaptive Schemas including Emotional Deprivation, Defectiveness, Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness and Self-Sacrifice. Often an individual may have a combination of these schemas operating from behind the scenes.
The goal of Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy is to heal Maladaptive Schemas that are no longer serving our growth or wellbeing, and develop more compassion and acceptance for our own intrinsic worthiness. After all, we are all worthy exactly as we are! It is time to get schema out of the driver’s seat and lead our own authentic, powerful lives!
The journey of Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy with me involves a structured collaboration in cultivating awareness about Early Maladaptive Schemas, and examining how these schemas are showing up in your present adult life. We will explore the positive and negative aspects of these schemas and modify them as necessary to support your goals and values. We will integrate a variety of customized tools and activities along the way including identification of unhelpful thinking patterns, imagery, mindful-meditation and EMDR, as appropriate. You will have assignments in between sessions to bring the insights and tools of therapy into your daily life. Each client’s treatment plan is specific to her own needs. There is no “one size fits all” plan, as we all have our own unique set of core beliefs based on our individual life experiences.
If the journey of self-discovery into Schema-Focused Cognitive Therapy sounds intriguing to you, and you are motivated to show up and do the work, please contact me to set up an appointment or to gain more information with a complimentary initial phone call. I look forward to supporting you in aligning your life with your values, and connecting with your authentic self. Wishing you peace, health, wellbeing and fulfillment!
Erin Graves, LCSW
Erin Graves is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist and Meditation Instructor at the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma in San Diego. She is a hiker, dog-lover and schema-junkie, who loves to see how schema work and mindful-meditation bring about peace, awareness, and transformation. Please contact her if you are interested in scheduling an appointment or learning more about what to expect from this type of therapy: firstname.lastname@example.org; 619-272-6858 x705.