Mental health

Introduction to Schema Therapy - new one-day workshop

Would you like to know more about schema therapy? Or how to incorporate key concepts and techniques from this highly effective approach into your practice? If so, my new one-day workshop – Introduction to Schema Therapy – will be a good fit for you, whichever modality you work in, whether that’s CBT, person-centred, integrative or psychodynamic therapy.

On this workshop you will learn:

  • Why schema therapy’s transdiagnostic approach helps you see beyond narrow diagnoses or clusters of symptoms to embrace the full uniqueness and complexity of the people who seek your help

  • How the integrative nature of schema therapy allows you to ‘plug in’ a wide range of theoretical approaches, techniques and ways of working to virtually every therapy modality currently on offer

  • How to assess your clients’ (and your own) schemas using the Young Schema Questionnaire, the gold-standard measure for the 18 Early Maladaptive Schemas

  • How to understand and formulate your client’s modes, as well as how to draw up a ‘mode map’

  • Why ‘experiential techniques’ such as imagery and chair work are so crucial in schema therapy and how to incorporate these powerful techniques into your practice, whichever modality you work in

  • How to work relationally in order to repair therapeutic ruptures, or overcome common obstacles and resistance from clients

Cost: £180 including refreshments, all training materials and certificate of attendance confirming 6 CPD hours

Next date: 1st July 2019 

If you would like to know more about this or any other workshop, call Dan Roberts on 07766 704210 or use my contact form to get in touch.

Warm wishes,


Helping people overcome jealousy, insecurity and fear of abandonment

Many of our clients show up with deep-rooted fears and sensitivities around being rejected or abandoned. In some ways, that’s a normal aspect of being a human being – fear of rejection is hard-wired into our brain, because for most of human history being rejected from the group was, literally, a matter of survival. Finding yourself alone, outside the village stockade, surrounded by hungry animals and hostile tribes, was not a good place to be.

So we are all sensitive to signs of rejection by friends/colleagues/family, or worries about our partner being unfaithful or leaving us. But for some clients, this sensitivity dominates their lives. These people probably have an Abandonment/Instability schema – one of the most painful schemas we can have, which can start to imprint in our brain from birth onwards. And this makes it especially overwhelming when it gets triggered in later life – because the emotions and bodily sensations we feel might be pre-verbal, pre-cognitive and those of an infant; hugely powerful and utterly overwhelming.

For example, Sonya comes to see me because she is having problems in her relationship. ‘Every time I think my boyfriend is going off me – even a tiny bit – I just freak out and start bombarding him with texts because I feel so anxious. I can’t bear it.’ When we start to explore her history, Sonya tells me that her mother was an alcoholic, so even though she did not physically abandon the family, she was often drunk and emotionally unavailable for Sonya and her siblings. This speaks to part two of the schema: Instability. Even though Sonya was not actually abandoned, the attachment to her mother was not stable or secure, so she felt abandoned on a daily basis.

Stephen’s case is easier to understand. When he was five his father – who he adored – suddenly left his mother and started a new family. Virtually overnight his dad went from an attachment figure that Stephen loved and relied on to being completely absent from his life. This clearly was an abandonment, so Stephen’s schema developed then. He now gets fiercely jealous if his wife even speaks to other men – because his schema gets triggered and he is overwhelmed by a wave of jealousy, fear and insecurity.

Healing the core wound

In schema therapy, we work on the Abandonment schema like every other – with a combination of experiential techniques (especially imagery and chair work) and ‘limited reparenting’, where we try to meet Sonya and Stephen’s core needs that did not get met in childhood. For both people, the biggest need I would be striving to meet would be love and a secure attachment – to me, primarily, but later to other friends, partners and family members. This takes time, but magically we can heal even the deepest, most painful schemas – and help people like this feel calmer, happier and more secure.

If you would like to know more about healing schemas and modes, come along to my one-day workshop, Working with Modes: Embracing Complexity & Achieving Integration, or for a more comprehensive training you might prefer my two-day workshop, Introduction to Schema Therapy.

And if you would like to know more about any of my workshops, call me on 07766 704210 or use the contact form to get in touch.

Warm wishes,


Healing the Vulnerable Child mode

Schema therapy was initially developed by Jeffrey Young in the 1980s, focusing on a client’s core schema, such as Abandonment or Defectiveness. But as the model became more sophisticated, the focus increasingly turned to working with ‘modes’ – different aspects of a person’s personality that can show up as distinct entities. This is a similar concept to self-states, parts or sub-personalities in other modalities. Everyone has modes – and probably hundreds of different modes – but there are a few archetypal modes that everyone has. And the most important of these is the Vulnerable Child.

Using a Mode Map

One way to explain this to clients is to draw up a Mode Map, with five or six modes drawn as circles and given idiosyncratic names. Typically these include the Critic, Healthy Adult and ‘coping modes’ such as the Detached Protector or Self-Aggrandiser (common in narcissistic presentations). When drawing up this map I always leave the biggest circle for the Vulnerable Child, which we call ‘Little X’ (so mine is Little Dan). I explain this part to my clients like this:

‘This is the part of you that feels all of the strong emotions, like anxiety, hurt, jealousy or loneliness. It’s like an inner child that gets triggered when you feel stressed, hurt or threatened – and in those moments you feel these overwhelming emotions, like a child feels them. So this is why you feel small and powerless when your boss is shouting at you, because this young, vulnerable, sensitive part of you has been triggered and you feel like you’re six years old again, unable to defend yourself against your angry dad.’

CONTACTING the Vulnerable Child

I also explain that this is the part we want to heal, as it holds all of a client’s painful schemas and emotions. And I ask people to bring a photo of themselves when they were young, so we know exactly what Little Jane or Robert looks like. When we are doing imagery rescripting, I am directly contacting the Vulnerable Child, which is held in a person’s memory as they recall and re-experience an upsetting or traumatic incident from childhood.

I find some people just get this concept and love it, while others struggle with it. But over time everyone seems to relate to it and start saying things like, ‘Little Gina got really triggered at the weekend, because I felt left out by friends planning a trip,’ or ‘Little Tom was super-anxious before I made my speech, so I did a lot of calming him down and felt much better.’

Conceptualising people’s vulnerability, or painful emotions in this way can be incredibly powerful. It gives a voice to the part of them that they may have been ashamed of, or a dissociated part that they weren’t even aware of. It’s one of the signature ways of working that makes schema therapy such a warm, compassionate approach and means we can hold and help with even the most complex, hard-to-treat presentations.

If you would like to know more about working with your clients’ Vulnerable Child mode, come along to my one-day workshop, Working with Modes: Embracing Complexity & Achieving Integration.

And if you would like to know more about any of my workshops, call me on 07766 704210 or use the contact form to get in touch.

Warm wishes,


Transforming the Critic mode: from self-attack to self-compassion

When I practised as a CBT therapist (before training in schema therapy), one of the things that stumped me was clients who were highly self-critical. I had some success with these clients, but if I’m honest, it always bugged me that I couldn’t help them more. That is one of the many reasons I love schema therapy, because it offers a highly effective set of strategies for helping people be less self-critical and more accepting of and compassionate to themselves.

One reason ST is so good at combatting self-criticism is because of the mode model. This allows us to separate out different aspects of a client’s inner world and then work with them directly. One of the most common modes we call the Critic, which is usually divided into two parts. The Demanding Parent is the part of us that just pushes way too hard – it sends us messages (as self-critical thoughts) that we are not good enough, too lazy, resting on our laurels, not keeping up with our peers… It’s well-intentioned, but the pressure it exerts is way too much – leading us to feel stressed, pressurised, exhausted and eventually burning out.

The other maladaptive parent mode is the Punitive Parent. This may be an introject (internalised messages) from a very harsh, cruel or hurtful parent or other caregiver. Or we may just have started being mean to ourselves, for a whole host of reasons, when we were a child – over time, these hurtful messages coalesced into a well-defined part of us that says things like, ‘You’re fat/stupid/ugly/worthless/unlovable.’ And, unsurprisingly, those message make us feel awful – in schema therapy terms, our Vulnerable Child gets triggered and we feel anxious, panicky, stressed, depressed, self-loathing, lacking in self-worth or even suicidal.

This is clearly much more toxic and harmful than the Demanding Parent, so we may need to take a firmer, more vigorous approach to combatting it. But it’s important to remember that, with any kind of Critic or maladaptive parent mode, we are not looking to fight or get rid of it – we couldn’t even if we tried, because it’s part of our client. Instead, we need to transform it, first helping the person feel sufficiently safe and protected (that Vulnerable Child mode again), before negotiating with and persuading the Critic to be more constructive, encouraging and generally helpful. I often suggest that the Critic becomes more like a teacher, or coach – offering advice and suggestions but in a calm, helpful way, which seems to work really well.

If you would like to know more about how to help your clients with self-criticism or self-attack, come along to one of the upcoming workshops below, or my one-day workshop – Transforming the Critic: Working with Self-Dislike, Punitiveness & Perfectionism.

And if you would like to know more about any of my workshops, call me on 07766 704210 or use the contact form to get in touch.

Warm wishes,


Upcoming Schema Therapy Skills workshops include:


In schema therapy, there is a strong emphasis on using experiential techniques such as imagery rescripting and chair work, which are seen as more effective and transformative than just talking about problems from the client’s past and present. This one-day workshop will teach you how imagery techniques can help rescript even the most traumatic experiences from your client’s childhood, such as incidences of abuse or neglect.

Cost: £180 including refreshments, all training materials and certificate of attendance confirming 6 CPD hours

Next date: 31st May 2019


This one-day course will explain the concept of ‘modes’, which are different aspects of our personality that are activated in different situations and by particular triggers. In addition to a brief overview of the theory of schema therapy and schemas/modes, you will learn how to assess and formulate your clients’ modes, as well as specific techniques such as imagery and chair work for working with key modes.

Cost: £180 including refreshments, all training materials and certificate of attendance confirming 6 CPD hours

Next date: 21st June 2019