Can Schema Therapy Help For Social Anxiety?

November 11, 2018

We recently wrote about contributing to the accessibility of schema therapy, where we mentioned one of our Co-Founders, Sally Skewes, was answering schema therapy related questions on Quora. This has continued and in the following post we bring you some additional contributions (questions answered).

How can schema therapy help someone that has extreme social anxiety?

Increasing evidence in schema therapy indicates that adults who experience social anxiety symptoms display greater maladaptive schemas related to the domain of Disconnection and Rejection (i.e. the belief that one’s needs for love, stability, safety and belonging will not be met in a predictable manner).

Schema therapy addresses underlying personality characteristics, early maladaptive schemas and maladaptive coping strategies developed in childhood.

The first stage of schema therapy involves increasing awareness of schemas and modes: In this stage of therapy the therapist and client focus on identifying and understanding one’s personal modes, which are prominent emotional states.

The next stage of schema therapy involves bypassing maladaptive coping modes. Coping modes (such as the Detached Protector) may prevent individuals from experiencing emotions and exploring early memories. Techniques such as imagery, chair work and empathic confrontation help individuals to connect to feelings and thoughts. In addition, overcoming the Avoidant Protector mode may involve situational exposures and behavioral experiments.

Gaining distance from inner critics: A main goal in schema therapy is to minimize and eliminate the punitive or critical mode. The punitive or critical mode is the negative voice individuals internalise, which keeps one from successfully overcoming avoidance. Some powerful strategies to do this include role playing, chair work, imagery rescripting and letter writing.

Strengthening the Healthy Adult mode involves developing self-compassion and empathy for one’s experiences to support healthy thinking, emotions and action. I wrote a short post at Secure Nest on Healthy Adult ways of getting your emotional needs met, which may assist.

[link to the answer on Quora]

With schema therapy, how do I look after my “Vulnerable Child”?

In schema therapy it is important to get in touch with your Vulnerable Child Mode and take good care of it. One of the best ways to get in touch with your Vulnerable Child mode is through imagery exercises. In these exercises you connect your feelings with images or ideas in your imagination. Our feelings and memories are closely linked to each other.

To take care of your Vulnerable Child Mode it can be helpful to close your eyes and try to sense what you really want and need when your Vulnerable Child Mode is triggered. It can be helpful to imagine your adult self standing by your little self providing comfort and fulfilling the needs of your little self. It can also be helpful to have reminders in your everyday life of your inner child receiving comfort to establish better care for your Vulnerable Child Mode.

As you get to know your Vulnerable Child Mode better, it can be a helpful exercise to write this part of you a letter. It may not be easy to start writing this letter. Try to remember what you were missing at this age, and put down what you want to tell your inner child. Try to think about what you could do today to care for your Vulnerable Child Mode. It could be helpful to think of writing to a good friend who is feeling disheartened when you are writing to your Vulnerable Child Mode. This may make it easier to write to your Vulnerable Child Mode. This exercise is about learning to be compassionate with your Vulnerable Child Mode. It is about trying to allow your Vulnerable Child to be seen completely as she or he is.

Exercises to get in touch with and take care of your Vulnerable Child can be found in our self-education program for schema therapy at Secure Nest.

[link to the answer on Quora]

How can I strengthen my Healthy Adult Mode (as described in schema therapy)?

To strengthen your Healthy Adult Mode it could be helpful to be aware of situations which help you to get into this mode. This may not always be easy, especially when your Healthy Adult part is not very strong. If that is the case, you should give a high priority to scheduling activities that bring you closer to this mode. The more you pursue such activities, the stronger your Healthy Adult Mode will become. You can get in touch with your Healthy Adult Mode if you:

* Spend time in nature. Being in touch with nature (i.e. noticing the sand between your toes, the breeze on your face, watching birds or walking among the trees) can nurture your body and senses.
* Choose a symbol for your Healthy Adult Mode to symbolise this part of you – can you find a way of keeping this close to you, to connect with this side of yourself. Keep it with you.
* Reward yourself in the process of making the first steps.
* Talk with a trustworthy friend about what is currently happening in your life.

Secure Nest contains a self-education program for schema therapy, you may find it helpful (and can trial for free). It includes several modules (reading and exercises) in the Library feature which relate to the Healthy Adult Mode.

[link to the answer on Quora]

The Secure Nest Team