Bringing Schemas and Modes into View

woman drawing something on the paper with pencil
An illustration exercise which is designed to bring your schemas and modes into view

This exercise is from our self-help modules which form part of the schema therapy self-education program (& can also be used during therapy). The three-week self-education program is free to try for individuals / clients (read how to get started).

Our post will guide you through an illustration exercise which is designed to bring your schemas and modes into view.

Besides having thoughts about ourselves, other people, and the world around us, we also experience memories in the form of images. In fact, some people think more in images than in language. By drawing what your schemas and modes mean to you, you can gain insight into how your schemas and modes function.

1. Grab a piece of paper and some drawing utensils (colour pencils, markers, crayons). Spend some time illustrating each of your schemas. It doesn’t matter what or how you draw, as long as your drawings illustrate what your schemas mean to you. What kind of associations do they carry? Feel free to use all the colours you can find.

2. Grab a new piece of paper and illustrate your modes.

3. You may now write on your drawings. Spend a few minutes writing down as many things as you can that you associate with your schemas and modes. It doesn’t matter what you put down, feel free to write whatever comes up.

Example: Morgan laughs when he is asked to draw his schemas and modes. He says, ‘How childish. It’s like kindergarten! What’s the point?’ He initially refuses, but eventually starts drawing. Morgan even notices that he enjoys the exercise. Morgan realizes that his Defectiveness/Shame schema had been triggered. In order to conceal his Defectiveness/Shame schema, he started to make fun of the exercise and show avoidant behaviour, suggesting that the Demanding Parent (‘what’s the point?’) had entered the scene.


What was it like to illustrate your schemas and modes?
What do your illustrations represent?
How did you feel?
What did you think?
What did you feel like doing?
Did you notice anything happening in your body?

Why not write down your answers in a Mode Diary or My Journal entry?

The Secure Nest Team


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Secure Nest provides personalised online therapy tools designed specifically for schema therapy. Read more here or register for your free trial.