Tena Davies, Clinical Psychologist, Certified Schema Therapist
What can Dr Seuss teach you about being a schema therapist?
My first ever supervisor, in undergrad, gifted me the book, “Oh the places you’ll go” by Dr Seuss as a graduation gift and it’s been my compass to navigate life’s bumps ever since. The book chronicles the ups and downs of what it's like to strive, to feel defeated, and to get back up again, To quote the book: “Oh the places you’ll go. You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights and join the highfliers who soar to great heights…except when you don’t because sometimes you won’t. And chances are then that you’ll be in a slump, …un-slumping yourself is not easily done…but on you will go though the weather be foul, on you will go though your arms may get sore, and your sneakers may leak. And I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are. Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you are that kind of guy. Kid, you’ll move mountains!”
I find these lines can be true for being a schema therapist, as there can be highs and lows especially in the early days or when interventions don’t quite go to plan. And initially it’s not always clear how to recover and that’s when that slumping feeling can take hold.
So, how do you get back on the metaphorical horse when you hit a bump?
Curb your critic-the critic is a formable instigator of shame and feeling bad about ourselves. Notice what you are saying about yourself, then imagine saying it to a friend. Would you say it to them? No way? Then it might be time to be gentler to yourself because it’s neither kind nor constructive. To quote Blacksmith, “if being hard on yourself worked, it would have worked by now!”
Hold onto the lesson and let go of the mistake-if there’s something to learn from the experience, note it and implement it next. Life doesn’t always hold a neon sign for us stating what the lesson was but take the learnings where you can.
Be vulnerable-shame hides in dark corners and while it can be easy to hide things we’re not proud of this only perpetuates the shame. Instead, confide in someone like a colleague or your supervisor.
Dial up the skills-think of the great schema therapists you know. Know that they were once novices too. They started off not knowing much and through hard work, supervision and training and reading were able to refine the skills until they became experts.
From little things big things come. Think of small things you can do like regular reading, taking one schema therapy course etc. When I first started my schema therapy journey I had a baby and a toddler. I could only dedicate one hour a week. It was a start. Over time I was able to dedicate much more time to it to help really build my knowledge and skills.
Tena Davies is a Clinical Psychologist and advanced certified schema therapist in Melbourne, Australia.
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