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Calm Lake

About Schema Therapy

Interested in learning more about Schema Therapy and why you should become a Schema Therapist? 


Schema therapy is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that was developed in the United States by Jeffrey Young in the 1980’s and has a strong presence there and throughout the world. Although internationally recognized, it is still relatively new to Canada. Schema Therapy is recognized as a highly researched form of therapy, which has clinically demonstrated its effectiveness in research studies. In fact, Schema therapy has been shown to be a very effective form of treatment for both “mainstream” problems, as well as more complex personality related issues. With strong research support for this approach in individual, group, and couple’s therapy, it is a flexible and powerful treatment modality,leading to dramatic change. As an integrative therapy that blends cognitive-behavioral therapy, insight oriented therapies, Gestalt, experiential, attachment and emotive therapies, therapists are able to draw upon a rich conceptual base to help their clients meet their goals for change.

So how does it work? Through a lens of empathic attunement, Schema Therapy works to change dysfunctional life patterns that result from unmet normal childhood needs. These unmet needs interfere with relationships, coping and behavior in adult life. By learning to recognize and modify the beliefs, emotions and behaviours associated with one’s early life experiences, clients are freed up to change self-defeating patterns. Schema Therapists do this by helping clients recognize their underlying early maladaptive schemas (rigidly embedded social-emotional beliefs related to unmet core emotional needs in childhood and adolescence), and the accompanying maladaptive coping modes, and to modify how these are activated in adult life.

Generally, this involves understanding how the client’s childhood attachments, experiences, and traumas impact their sense of self in the
adult world, and directly intervening with biased emotional experiences to create adaptive meaning and meet early unmet needs. Clients learn to understand how the past has influenced and interfered with healthy and adaptive choices and responses, and the impact on their current life and relationships. Clients develop tools to actively break negative patterns and learn more adaptive and satisfying ways of being in their relationships and their lives. Schema Therapy is a powerful and active approach to change—addressing depression, anxiety, characterological challenges, couple’s issues, parenting, childhood trauma, neglect and relationship issues in general.

We grow up accustomed to certain roles and certain ways of being perceived. If we grow up in a family in which we are abused, neglected, yelled at, constantly criticized, or dominated, then that is the environment that feels most comfortable to us. Unhealthy as it may be, most people seek and create environments that feel familiar and similar to the ones where they grew up.

― Jeffrey E. Young, Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behavior. and

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…good psychotherapy is more like improvisational jazz…In jazz improvisations, a complex mixture of group collaboration, creativity, and interaction are co-constructed among band members. Like psychotherapy, no two jazz improvisations are identical. However, improvisations are not a random collection of notes. They are grounded in a comprehensive theoretical understanding and technical proficiency that is only developed through continuous practice.

—Wendy Behary, Joan Farrell et al.


Access to huge range of ST research

Able to offer ST Training 

International network of ST

Highly effective, accessible form of therapy

Ability for therapist to integrate many established, evidence-based interventions from different modalities under ST approach

Strengthened relationships with clients, and expertise in working with complex trauma and personality disorder

Able to use the title of Schema Therapist in marketing and as a credential


“I had about 30 years of intensive experience as a marriage counsellor and psychotherapist before I was introduced to Schema Therapy through Wendy Behary. I was immediately compelled by the ability to apply and amalgamate my previous training in a powerful, wholistic approach to helping my clients. I have been amazed by the response of clients to ST—there is no doubt in my mind that ST is the most effective, and exciting treatment modality that I have ever encountered.”

—Frances Miller MSW,RSW

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