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Relighting the Fire: Using Chair Work to Reconnect Couples in Schema Therapy

by Matias Valente


In a sense, negative interpersonal experiences not only trigger our schemas and painful feelings activating our angry or vulnerable child modes, but are as well the long term result of dysfunctional coping modes almost automatically “taking control” over the way we treat significant others while dealing with emotional challenging situations. Behind every coping mode there is a vulnerable child longing for connection – even if we can’t see them. Using the mode-clash concept to conceptualize dysfunctional coping patterns within a couple, schema therapy helps to heal and reconnect, chair work being one of the most effective experiential tools.

Teaching Methods:

After a short introduction to the concept of schema therapy with couples and the concept of mode clashes, a specific technique with multiple chairs will be demonstrated in a role play, which participants will reproduce in small working groups under supervision.

Learning Objectives:

1) Understand the concept of mode clashing
2) Learn to use chair work to access vulnerable child modes “behind” coping modes and help couples reconnect

Workshop Intended For:

Intermediate (Participants have had basic ST training)

Relevant Background Readings on Topic: 

Schema Therapy with Couples: A Practitioner's Guide to Healing Relationships DiFrancesco, Roediger, Steven

About the Presenter:

Matias Valente

(PhD), born 1979, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. Trained in psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral therapy (ACT, DBT, BA). Trained in Schema Therapy by Eckhard Roediger 2005-2009. Advanced schema therapist and trainer since 2010. Since 2014 director of the Schema Therapy Training Center in Stuttgart (GER), formerly head psychologist at the psychosomatic department of the psychiatric hospital in Weinsberg (GER). Research-Area: ST with inpatients. Since 2018 working in private practice. Specialized in treating severe personality disorders and trauma-associated disorders in both inpatients and outpatient settings, working with ST, DBT, CBT and ACT. 

    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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