Schemas (Life Patterns) Treated in Schema Therapy

We wanted to present an overview of the schemas, also known as life patterns, that are treated in schema therapy

At Secure Nest our mission is to increase the accessibility of schema therapy and we wanted to present an overview of the schemas, also known as life patterns, that are treated in schema therapy. See our video here for an introduction to schema therapy which includes an explanation of schemas (and modes).

The table below lists all eighteen schemas.

Source – J. Broersen & M.F. van Vreeswijk, Brief Schema Therapy workbook:
Experiential strategies for group and individual psychotherapy.
Purchase it here for only €7.50

Defining Schemas

Emotional Deprivation The expectation that one’s basic emotional needs (such as support, care, empathy, and protection) will not be sufficiently met or not met at all. The feeling of isolation and loneliness.
Abandonment / Instability The expectation that one will be abandoned by everyone sooner or later. Other people are unreliable and unpredictable in their support and their commitment. People who feel abandoned alternate between experiences of fear, sadness, and anger.
Mistrust / Abuse The patient is convinced that they will eventually be exploited, betrayed, or humiliated by other people.
Social Isolation / Alienation The feeling of isolation from the rest of the world and the feeling of being different or not belonging.
Defectiveness / Shame The feeling of being internally incomplete and corrupt. As soon as other people get to know you, you will be discovered and rejected. Feelings of inferiority give rise to shame.
Failure to Achieve The conviction that one is incapable of functioning at the level of same-age peers. Feeling unintelligent and untalented.
Dependence / Incompetence The feeling of being entirely helpless and functionally dependent on others. Being unable to make decisions about everyday problems and being frequently anxious and tense.
Vulnerability to Harm You believe that something catastrophic will happen to you or your loved ones at any moment, and you believe nothing can be done to stop it.
Enmeshment / Undeveloped Self Being excessively involved with and bound to one or more caregivers, which prevents you from forming your own identity.
Subjugation Submitting oneself to the will of other people in order to ward off negative consequences. Suppressing own needs out of fear of conflict and punishment.
Self-Sacrifice Freely sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others, whom you regard as weaker. Feeling guilty for attending to one’s own needs, and prioritizing those of others instead. Eventually coming to resent the people you care for.
Emotional Inhibition Keeping emotions and impulses bottled up, because you believe that expressing them will hurt other people, or will result in shame, reprisals, or abandonment. Never being spontaneous and heavily emphasizing rationality.
Unrelenting Standards / Hypercriticalness Believing you are never good enough and must always try harder. Being critical of yourself and other people, and being perfectionistic, rigid, and excessively efficient—at the expense of pleasure, relaxation, and relationships.
Entitlement / Grandiosity Believing that you are superior to other people and deserve special treatment. You can do whatever you like without considering the needs of others. The central theme is power and gaining control over situations and people.
Insufficient Self-Control / Self-Discipline Lacking frustration tolerance and struggling to control one’s emotions and impulses. You can’t tolerate disagreement or discomfort (pain, arguments, or effort).
Approval-Seeking Being excessively concerned with recognition, validation, and attention, at the expense of one’s own development and needs.
Pessimism Always seeing the negative side of things and ignoring or minimizing the positive. One is usually found ruminating and is hypervigilant.
Self-Punitiveness Believing people should be harshly punished for their mistakes. Being aggressive, intolerant, impatient, and unforgiving.


Schema Therapy Self-Education Program

The Schema Therapy Self-Education Program which clients or individuals (without a therapist) can complete helps to link your strongest schemas with core emotional needs in relationships.

Linking Schemas to Unmet Emotional Needs in Childhood

You may also be interested in this post which provides a link between which schemas develop as a result of unmet emotional needs in childhood.

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.