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The Healthy Adult in chairs

by Remco Van Der Wijngaart, Hélène Bögels & Julie Krans

Remco van der Wijngaart, Dutch Institute for Schema Therapy, Maastricht, the Netherlands

Hélène Bögels, Reinier van Arkel, Den Bosch, the Netherlands

Julie Krans, Radboud University & Pro Persona Research, Nijmegen, the Netherlands


Our aim in Schema Therapy, is to develop a Healthy Adult Mode in our clients that helps them to cope and to deal with the emotions and struggles of life. Clients often have a picture of this Healthy Adult as an end-product, a state of being in which they can experience continual mental rest and stability. Being a Healthy Adult, however, does not mean that you are in constant balance, feeling strong, full of self-confidence and without making mistakes. A Healthy Adult tells us more about the path we are trying to find in life, and the way in which we deal with emotions and challenges. You can therefore compare a Healthy Adult with the analogy of a captain on a ship, who has learned to navigate and manage the sea well, however regularly still hits a storm once and awhile, or is carried away in strong currents which are often present at sea.

Especially in the middle and end phase of therapy, it is essential that clients learn what it is to be a Healthy Adult, and which strategies they need to follow as a Healthy Adult. A recent study by Yakin et al. (2020) showed that working on the Healthy Adult and the Child modes are the best indicators of a positive therapy result.

Clients will have to learn which steps they need to take in order to deal with the challenges of life in a healthy way. Chair work offers a helpful practical framework to make these skills of the Healthy Adult more visual and to practice these skills with daily problem situations they encounter. 

In this workshop participants learn how to apply chair work to practice the skills of the Healthy Adult. Chairs are not used as different symbols of different of the client, but as different steps that a Healthy Adult needs to follow in managing problem situations. Besides a demonstration of this exercise, participants will also have a chance to practice this chair work exercise in a safe environment.

Teaching Methods:

The skills class contains an introduction on the scientific research on chair work, a demonstration (role-play), and exercises in group and pairs.


Yakin, D. & Grasman, R. & Arntz, A. (2020) Schema modes as a common mechanism of change in personality pathology and functioning: Results from a randomized controlled trial. Behav Res Ther. 2020 Mar;126:103553. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2020.103553. Epub 2020 Jan 16.van der

Wijngaart, R. (2021) Imagery Rescripting, theory and practice. Par. 5.2 p. 90-96. Pavillion Publishing and Media Ltd.

Hayes, C., & Van der Wijngaart, R. (2018). Fine Tuning Chair work. www.schematherapy.nl

Krans, J., & Van der Wijngaart, R. (2022). Chapter 1 Introduction. IN Chair work, theory and practice (subm).

About the Presenters:

Remco Van Der Wijngaart

Remco van der Wijngaart works as a psychotherapist in a private practice in Maastricht, the Netherlands.  Initially trained in CBT, he was later trained and supervised by Jeffrey Young in Schema Therapy with chair work as one of the most frequently used techniques in this therapy model. Since 2000 he frequently has been given training courses in Schema Therapy and Chair work worldwide. He produced and directed several audio-visual productions, e.g. “Fine Tuning Chair Work”. He is the author of the book ‘Chair work, theory and practice’ (submitted).

Hélène Bögels

Hélène Bögels works as a clinical psychologist/psychotherapist in a mental health institution and in a private practice. She is a supervisor in CBT, group psychotherapy and Schema Therapy. She is also a trainer in schema therapy and EMDR Europe practitioner. She is a member of the Training and Advisory Board of the International Society for Schema Therapy.

Julie Krans

Julie Krans is an assistant professor in clinical psychology at the Radboud University, and senior researcher at Pro Persona Overwaal centre for anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. Her research focuses on imagery rescripting and schema therapy for chronic psychological disorders. She recently co-founded a European consortium for research collaboration and clinical dissemination of imagery rescripting and wrote the scientific part of the introductory chapter in ‘Chair work, theory and pratice’ (subm). She was trained as a CBT therapist and has clinical experience with imagery rescripting.

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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