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March 2016 Schema Therapy Bulletin Now Available

10 Mar 2016 7:35 PM | Travis Atkinson (Administrator)

Schema Therapy Bulletin

March 2016: Schema Couples Therapy

“We are afraid to care too much, for fear that the other person does not care at all” - Eleanor Roosevelt

Few intimate relationships commence and develop with the prospect thoughts of tough times ahead, however conflict, challenges and emotional pain are often side effects from are a natural accompaniment to being close to someone.

At the centre of our psychological makeup lies vulnerability, and interpersonal relationships are often where human beings feel that vulnerability. Often the epicentre of vulnerability is observed in the couples relationship, where feelings are magnified by love, romantic bonds, family and ties.

Dysfunctional schemas and modes can be perpetuated by unhealthy, relationships or healed and transformed by healthy and satisfying ones. More recently, the complex interplay between 2 people and their history has become a focus of Schema Therapy. This model suggests ways to explain, improve and resolve some of the obstacles to successful relationships, through its focus on meeting basic human needs. The basic human need to feel safe, secure, connected and cared about,  and the factors that interfere with getting those needs met in healthy and adaptive ways, are explored in this issue.

Co- Editors,

Chris Hayes (Australia)  

Lissa Parsonnet (USA) 

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Mode TrackingSM with Couples

by Chiara Simeone DiFrancesco, Ph.D.  (USA) 

Mode TrackingSM and Need TalkSM are service marks created by the author and belonging to Dialog International Press, LLC

What is Mode TrackingSM and how does it work? Mode TrackingSM comes from the conceptualization of Schema Therapy. It involves the activation of the developmental history of a person, particularly in their childhood. Because we do not live in a perfect world, most children have at least some of their core needs unmet. How core needs are or are not met will impact the individual’s emotional development and their capacity for connection with others. The vantage point of adulthood does not necessarily bring recognition of the lessons learned in childhood, and the consequent formation of early maladaptive schemas (schemas).  Schemas are complex patterns that arouse the autonomic nervous system into a familiar way of coping that maintains the unmet need. These schemas can generally be classified into 18 different patterns. This helps us have some meta-awareness of their activation. 

One can track the activation of the schemas like pistons firing in an engine. Together they more or less, depending on their state of repair, get the car moving.  When schemas are activate, often many of them in rapid succession, people exhibit schema modes. We can observe this from a three-dimensional perspective of core emotions activated (Child Modes), the cognitively mediated “voice in one’s head” (Parent Modes) providing commentary about self and others, and the actual ensuing behaviors (Coping Modes). These layers can be diagrammed in a Mode Map or Mode Cycle Clashcard. They can also be experienced through the exercise of placing the modes in chairs, as their layers are “peeled off” like thin onion skins occurring at some moments nanosecond by nanosecond. MODE TRACKING

A Schema Therapy Approach to Affairs

by Professor Bruce A Stevens, PhD (Australia)

Affairs are often part of the breakdown of relationships. Sadly, it seems that few people have much psychological insight into what happened or are wiser after the event. ST can help us to understand and possibly find some resources to deal with this common challenge in couple counseling.

Almost all people enter a romantic relationship, whether marriage or living together, with a conscious intention of remaining sexually faithful, so an affair is inevitably a falling from an initial ideal, whether a religious or a personal value. It is usually secretive, guilt-inducing in the person involved and anywhere from infuriating to shattering for the partner who finds out. Although most of our discussion of this topic focuses on the affair in relation to a marriage, the dynamics are similar for an engagement, de facto partnership, or longer term committed relationship. In those cases, there may be less of a public dimension than with vows made in a marriage service, but often there are children involved and the legal situation can easily become entangled. AFFAIRS

Healing relationships: How to extend the mode model into an interpersonal perspective

by Eckhard Roediger, MD (Germany) 

The conventional mode model is based looking at a single person and their biographical imprints resulting in schemas and coping styles. Schemas result from interpersonal experiences and tend to be acted out in current relationships (Young et al. 2003). So there is already an implicit interpersonal thinking underlying the schema model. Additionally, our partner selection is schema driven based on what Jeff Young called “chemistry”: In a nutshell that means that we  choose what we already know and do what we already can. We often end up in what Jeff Young called “life traps” (Young 2012). 

Understanding current relations problems including the therapeutic interaction based on an interpersonal schema therapy model seems helpful – if not necessary - to improve them. Such an adjusted mode model for supervision purposes and for treating couples has been outlined (Roediger & Laireiter 2013; Simeone-DiFrancesco et al. 2015). The core concept of the interpersonal mode model focuses on the mode cycles between the coping modes of the partners. Relationships tend to stabilize themselves in a number of mode cycles, in a more or less functional way. HEALING RELATIONSHIPS

Ruptures in the Therapeutic Alliance: Repairing and Rebuilding Trust with a Couple

by Travis Atkinson, LCSW (USA)

Challenges in the treatment room are constantly present for the individual therapist. These may include obstacles to developing and maintaining a strong therapeutic alliance, barriers to the ability to empathize with the client, and hurdles in working with the client to establish goal consensus and collaboration during treatment. With two clients in the room, double the possibilities for obstacles, and the challenges faced by the therapist working with a couple become more apparent.

Of the many hurdles the couples therapist faces, one of the biggest threats to successful outcome lies in a rupture to the therapeutic alliance. The therapeutic bond between clients and therapist stands out as crucial to successful couples therapy, along with the treatment methods used, the characteristics of the client, and the qualities of the therapist (Norcross, 2011). When tension or breakdowns in the therapeutic relationship occur, the success of the treatment often diminishes, and failure to resolve the ruptures may lead to the end of couples therapy. RUPTURES IN COUPLES THERAPY

Created by Travis Atkinson

ISST Board Public Affairs & Member Benefits Coordinator

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