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Schema Therapy for Adolescents and Young Adults After Peer Victimization

by Eva Dresbach


Victimization by peers is a painful social experience. Children and adolescents who are excluded, rejected or bullied by their peers are found to have lower self-esteem, and show higher levels of anxiety, depression and somatic symptoms. Long-term consequences may even include self-destructive or aggressive behavior and suicidal ideation.
From a schema therapist’s perspective, victimization by peers during childhood and adolescence leads to frustration of the young person’s emotional needs for self-esteem and affiliation to a supporting peer-group. The experience increases the risk of schema- development, especially of schemas as Defectiveness-Shame, Isolation, Subjugation, Self-Sacrifice and Approval-Seeking. In consequence a Victimized Child-Mode can develop, the Angry Child-Mode can be either suppressed or expressed in a socially inappropriate manner. Dysfunctional peer-messages can result in a Punitive Peer-Mode and provoke dysfunctional Coping-Modes. Finding oneself being victimized by peers activates coping-strategies as self-blame, withdrawal or (passive-)aggressive reactions in social situations. Because of their coping, victims do not act socially competent and are more likely to experience further rejection or victimization. Also, not being integrated in a peer-group, they have less opportunities to improve and refine their social skills. These interpersonal problems may persist during adulthood. The goal of Schema therapy interventions is to reduce schemas and coping- behavior by identifying and addressing the emotional needs of the Victimized Child-Mode as well as combatting the Punitive Peer-Mode. In this skills class, an innovative intervention for adolescents and young adults who have experienced peer-victimization is presented. Illustrated by a case-study of an adolescent, a conceptional model of victimization is introduced. Possible interactions of Modes derived from experiences with caregivers with Modes derived from peer-experiences are pointed out. The conceptualization of the Punitive- Peer-Mode is outlined. Ways of combating the Punitive-Peer-Mode and caring for the Child Modes in chair-work and transfer to social- skills-training will be demonstrated step-by-step and practiced in small groups.

Target Audience:

Clinical practitioners working with adolescents and young adults. Basic experience in Schema therapy is required.

Learning Objectives:

Recognizing the Punitive-Peer-Mode in adolescent or adult patients.
Learning and practicing how to explore and combat the Punitive-Peer-Mode and to reach and care for the Victimized Child-Mode and the - suppressed - Angry Child-Mode.
Developing a modification of social skills training by paying attention to modes and supporting the Competent Mode to build healthy friendships.

Level of Experience Required for Participants:

Intermediate (Participants have had basic ST training)

    About the Presenters

    Eva Dresbach:

    Eva Dresbach, PhD, works with children, adolescents, young adults and their parents in her own practice in Bonn, Germany. Her PhD focused on the treatment of interpersonal problems in adolescents. She is also a trainer and supervisor for a CBT-institute affiliated with the University of Cologne, and works as an Advanced Trainer and Supervisor in Child and Adolescent Schema therapy. Mainly being a clinical practitioner, she is furthermore interested in applying Schema therapy to the treatment of interpersonal problems in young people. She uses scientific findings as well as impulses from her work with patients and trainees to create therapy materials. This has led her to publications about Schema therapy and interpersonal problems of adolescents, focusing especially on peer- victimization.

    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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