An article was recently published in The Schema Therapy Bulletin (The Official Publication of the International Society of Schema Therapy, ISST). For those who are not a member of the ISST we wanted to share the article which you can read below.
An Individual’s Insights into Secure Nest’s Self-Education Program
Sally Skewes & Elly Gannon
Secure Nest (securenest.org) is an innovative e-health tool, which has been specifically developed for schema therapy. The platform offers a range of tools for therapists to support their clients, including programs which provide step by step guidance for therapists to facilitate blended short-term group schema therapy and individual schema therapy. Blended programs include a combination of face to face and e-health sessions. Secure Nest recently developed a self-education program where individuals can learn about schema therapy. In this article we present an individual’s insights into Secure Nest’s self-education program.
The self-education program describes the schema mode approach in an understandable way for anyone who is interested in learning about themes in thinking and the related emotions and behaviours. The program aims to encourage individuals to change negative life patterns in such a way that they can respond to painful feelings and give more space to positive feelings in their life. The program can be used independently or as assistance to schema therapy with a therapist.
The self-education program guides individuals through a set of sixteen modules over three weeks. A range of exercises including imagery exercises and mindfulness recordings will help individuals to understand themselves, their feelings, schemas and core emotional needs.
Secure Nest recently sought feedback from individuals who completed the self-education program and we will walk you through the initial stages of the program (exercises from week one). One individual generously allowed us to share their experience.
An initial assessment at the beginning of the program provides an overview of an individual’s schemas, related core emotional needs and coping style. The assessment results are displayed in an accessible overview in the My Modes (and Identify My Modes) feature.
Individual’s experience: “The self-education program on Secure Nest was comprehensive and introduced me to what modes and schemas were. Part of the Self-Education program included filling out a questionnaire that indicates the main schemas in your life. My “top schemas” included the “Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness” schema. This schema refers to having very high standards, perfectionist traits and as a result, being overly self-critical. For this schema, guidance in developing appropriate values and ideals, finding balance in achievement and personal needs are described, as core emotional needs.”
In My Modes individuals can read about the schemas, modes and core emotional needs that are significant in their life. Individuals may find that they can already identify relationships between their schemas and modes and specific events in their daily life. Individuals can view the modes that are relevant in their life on the Identify My Modes page. This page has prompts for individuals to fill out mode diaries which provide a guide for them to organise their experiences when schemas or modes are triggered.
Individual’s experience: “The next exercise involved creating a mode diary, which required me to log an example of how a particular schema was activated. This part of the task was initially difficult, as I felt that my schema did not relate back to an early childhood memory. I had always believed that my unrelenting standards were a result of the competitiveness in my studies. However, 3 days later (still puzzled by where my schema may have originated from) I realised that as a child I had always looked up to my brother, who to me, is one of the most intelligent people in my life. Because I admired my brother, I felt the need to ensure that I worked in a similar way to him. I was academic during my schooling years, and even as a young child I would get anxious if I did not succeed. These were standards that I had created myself, and even sympathy or reassurance from my parents would not appease me. The introduction to this task has made me reflect and recognize that this schema dates back much further than my tertiary education.”
The next exercise involves illustrating one’s schemas and modes which can be a helpful way to gain insight into how they function. Schemas and modes can be triggered by being asked to draw in this exercise. Individuals are asked to reflect on the exercise of illustrating their schemas and modes.
Individual’s experience: “I found it interesting to illustrate my schema – it was a step forward in coming to terms with the fact that I admired my brother and aspired to succeed like him, and that as a result I have created very rigid and unrelenting standards for myself. My illustration represented me standing next to a drawing with a happy face (in green). Stemming from that positive drawing, I drew “thinking clouds” which pictured me standing next to a larger and improved drawing, with a speech bubble saying “if only it was bigger and better” (in red). I contrasted me being happy with my success in green, to me downgrading my success (in red). The illustrations do not include or make reference to any other people in my life, as this exercise has highlighted that my family has only ever offered me support and encouragement when I have been self-critical.
The illustration brought up the fact that doing schema therapy work is a very long process, as I know there is more I need to explore regarding my other schemas. The illustration also brought up doubts in myself as to whether I will be able to accept my accomplishments as they are. This has been a constant battle this year in in my studies, as I have been challenging myself to lower my own standards. Something, which I believe, I am making progress in!”
During the exercise when asked, what did you think? What did you feel like doing?
Individual’s experience: “I honestly (and ironically) thought about my drawing skills after this task. I felt like I should discard of the illustration so that I could not be reminded of how I have perfectionistic traits, and so that others in my household would not come across the (poorly drawn) illustration! Another indicator that perhaps I have much work to do on this particular schema.”
Overall reflection of the initial stages of the program:
Individual’s experience: “I felt that this task has left me reflecting on the “top schemas” from the questionnaire I filled out. There is a lot of work I would need to do to wholly understand schemas, and to develop skills in linking schemas to different periods of my life.”
The individual’s reflection indicates that the self-education program may help individuals to begin to understand the origin of their negative life patterns and the related thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
The goal of this program is to provide access to some of the educational parts of schema therapy, including learning about one’s schemas and modes and becoming aware of triggers in their life.
The self-education program is not designed to replace the change work of schema therapy with a therapist, but it may be helpful for some individuals (perhaps those with a stronger Healthy Adult or for those with difficulties that are not rooted in early attachment) if they are given a way to understand their long-term emotionally based patterns, and tools to apply in their own life to work out solutions with the help of friends or a therapist. This could initiate the change process, and they could then start schema therapy with a therapist to bring them through the change process.
Individuals can complete the self-education program (as homework) to promote connection and engagement between sessions or while on the waiting list, so they gain an understanding before beginning therapy.
Due to the integration of e-health tools being a new area of clinical practice and research in schema therapy, the possibilities for meeting individual’s needs (or knowing who may benefit) are largely unknown and we should turn to our clients for their input.
You can read more about our Self-Education Program on this page and signup for a free trial.
The Secure Nest Team