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The Schema Therapy Bulletin

The Official Publication of the 

International Society of Schema Therapy

INTERVIEW WITH DAVID EDWARDS

by Vivian Francesco (USA)

I recently had the profound pleasure of interviewing Dave Edwards and was amazed to discover so many different facets of our new ISST president.  Here are some excerpts from our interview:

What role do you play on the ISST board?  What made you want to accept that role?

One of the jobs of the President of any board is to serve as an administrator, keeping the agenda on point and the group focused.  Since I have served in this sort of position before, I felt confident in my ability to serve as president of the ISST.  The President should have a strong belief in the model and preserve the integrity of schema therapy above all else.  I value the model and have been very fortunate to have worked personally with Jeff Young and others who believe in the importance of clear case conceptualization, for example.  I value my experience serving on various committees of the ISST throughout the years (Training, Supervision and Certification Committees).  I would never have thought of applying for the presidency, but people approached me and asked me to serve.  I remember being really quite surprised!  I guess that’s because, being from South Africa, I tend to feel somewhat on “the edge of things” or maybe it’s because of my “social isolation schema”!

How did you first learn about schema therapy?

In 1984, I came from South Africa to Beck’s Center for Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia.  I heard Jeffrey Young lecture about schema therapy, and I thought it was the greatest thing on the planet!  I had already written about using imagery in psychotherapy, and I was already integrating guided imagery and chair work into my practice, so hearing Jeff Young speak about schema therapy at that time was very affirming and it worked well with where I was heading.

How did you get your training in schema therapy?

 I already had a small practice which was quite integrative because I was trained in CBT, experiential techniques and Gestalt, and quite a lot of my colleagues were using a sort of relational approach to therapy.  I went to many lectures and read everything about schema therapy.  I guess I’m sort of self-taught, although I did attend many of Jeff’s workshops.  I was truly very guided by Jeff’s writing.  He gave me his training packet which I have found to be indispensable.  I was grandfathered in, but I had to submit a session tape and a case conceptualization to Wendy.  It was an eating disorder case, that I later presented at some workshops including one in Germany. Subsequently, it was published in a book in German on Schema Therapy for Eating disorders edited by Christina Archonti, Eckhard Roediger, our former President, and Martina de Zwaan.  

How did you first get into schema therapy?

Meeting Jeff Young in 1984 was, of course, a turning point.  I had already been working with integrating experiential techniques into CBT, but this was just what I needed to focus myself in the right direction.  In 2007, I gave a presentation in Barcelona where I met Arnoud Arntz and became very excited about the Dutch  research on Schema Therapy for Borderline Personality. Soon afterwards, I attended a workshop of Arnoud’s in London and saw some of  the Dutch training DVDs.  Stimulated by this, I started a schema therapy study group and watched and discussed the whole set with a group of colleagues At the time I was certified,  I was was preparing to retire  from my full time position as university professor at Rhodes University.  I decided to “rebrand” myself as a schema therapist and  trainer.  I still work part time for Rhodes, but much of my time now is devoted to doing schema therapy with clients, and offering supervision and workshops.. Schema therapy is very complex and I’m still learning how to do it.   In fact I learn something new nearly every day so I’m not ready to retire yet. I think, eat and breathe schema therapy!

What do you see in the future for the evolution of schema therapy and the ISST?

The main thing I would hope for is the continuation of really creative work being done by so many ISST members in developing the application of schema therapy to a broad spectrum of disorders.  I see this clinical creativity being increasingly grounded in a growing body of published  research, and this marriage is exciting for the future of schema therapy.

How do you enjoy spending your free time?

Well, I’m somewhat of a workaholic, and my wife, who is a neuropsychologist and researcher is too, though she’s doing better at giving it up.  So we’re working on that!  (He chuckles.)  We both love hiking.  We try to carve out vacation time every couple of months.  We just took a lovely holiday at the beach.  If we are traveling for work, we try to combine it with some leisure travel.

How do you get into your “happy child mode”?

If I think of when I’m best in my “happy child”, it’s when I’m with my grandchildren  -  I have seven and use a spreadsheet to keep track!  Last year, we joined all my children and grandchildren in Bali for a vacation they had planned.  I was a very happy child!

I also access my “happy child” when I am being creative.  I have fun taking popular songs and doing schema therapy commentary to them to present at workshops.  One of the songs I used at a couples  workshop in Vienna was “It Ain’t Me Babe by Bob Dylan.  In the commentary I suggest it might be better if he and the “babe” went for Schema Therapy for couples  instead of resorting to avoidant coping!

Are there any other thoughts or ideas you would like to share with the ISST family?

I feel very honored to have been elected President of our wonderful Society. I am also aware that I am just one of a large number of committed people who value and work for the ISST.  I am very grateful to be working with some of these fine people on the Executive Board and to know there are many others working on our committees and subcommittees or in other ways working to move Schema Therapy forward. I think the challenge for schema therapy is expanding the model to include a wider range of clinical problems while maintaining the integrity of the model.  This is something that, as President, I will stand for and promote.  Since schema therapy is so diverse technically, there is a danger of getting caught up in specific techniques.  Schema therapy isn’t defined so much by techniques as it is by how you use them within the framework of a schema therapy case conceptualization.  As the integrity of the model is something people like Jeff, Wendy and Eckhard value as well, I feel very comfortable being President.I know I am following in the footsteps of, and am supported by, many of the major players in schema therapy who have helped to build and strengthen the ISST and helped it to become the rich, diverse and effective organization it is today.

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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