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What is a schema and how can schema therapy help?

Hypothetical example

Schemas are strongly held patterns that while false, feel true. A person may feel they will be abandoned, are defective or will be subject to harm, even if they know logically this is false. When psychological needs (i.e. security, connection, competence) are unmet schemas trigger and this causes intense emotional distress. To cope with the intense feelings that schemas activate, many individuals will engage in survival coping, such as avoidance, overthinking or people pleasing. This usually leads to a self defeating cycle where unhelpful coping leads to more schema activation and distress.

The aim of Schema Therapy is to get to the root cause of negative patterns, help meet core psychological needs, break self defeating cycles and better manage painful feelings. 

John wants to apply for a promotion but the thought of this triggers his Defectiveness and Shame schema.


Though normally a confident person, he fears he is too flawed and privately worries he'll be rejected for the job. To cope with these painful feelings he watches Netflix.


He tells himself he can't be bothered applying for the job (avoidance), which ultimately makes him feel worse.

John and his therapist work as a team to lesson the intensity of his Defectiveness and Shame schema, reduce negative emotions and decrease his avoidant coping. 


They find more effective ways of meeting his psychological needs instead of avoiding. This ultimately improves his mood and leads to a more fulfilling life.


How many sessions is Schema Therapy?

Can I obtain a Medicare rebate?

Schema therapy is a medium to long term therapy of around 20+ sessions. Medicare provides clients with 10 rebated sessions per calendar year. These discounted sessions are an excellent way of making a start with Schema Therapy. Though there is no obligation, most patients continue beyond 10 sessions. 

What sorts of issues suit Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy is trans-diagnostic meaning it is effective across a broad range of issues such as chronic depression, anxiety etc. Many clients who seek Schema Therapy have tried other therapies (i.e. CBT). They seek to move beyond managing symptoms and learn better ways of breaking dysfunctional patterns and meeting their needs.

Explainer Video-coming soon