Therapy workshops

Helping clients with addiction or compulsive behaviour

Why do humans consume substances or engage in activities compulsively? There are many competing theories about this, but in schema therapy we are more interested in the function of the behaviour than the particular substance or activity our clients are compulsively pursuing. In my opinion, drinking a bottle of wine every night, spending three hours on Facebook or snorting lines of cocaine are all symptoms of deeper problems – they are ways to numb painful feelings or distract ourselves from them.

My thinking on this subject has been significantly enriched recently by coming across Dr Gabor Maté, a doctor working with drug addicts in Vancouver. His harrowing but brilliant book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, backs up the idea that drug addiction is always linked to trauma – it’s a way to escape unbearable or overwhelming thoughts, memories and emotions linked to a painful past. I see this again and again with my clients and I’m sure you do, too.

In schema therapy, we conceptualise the part of our clients that seeks numbness or distraction as the Detached Self-Soother mode. This ‘mode’ (a part of the personality, that has a distinct character and function for the client) helps them detach from uncomfortable feelings; this detaching is usually a conscious choice – ‘God I need a whisky after that day!’ – and the self that is soothed (or more accurately suppressed or numbed) we formulate as the Vulnerable Child mode.

This is the part of our clients (and us) that closely maps on to the inner child from other modalities. It is a young, vulnerable, emotional part that carries all of the wounding and unmet needs from childhood. The work of schema therapy – or any other approach – is to contact, care for and heal this part of our clients. When we do so, deep healing can take place – even with the most complex or seemingly impossible-to-help people and presentations.

If you would like to learn more about working with modes like the Detached Self-Soother and Vulnerable Child, come along to my workshop on 21st June 2019, Working with Modes: Embracing Complexity and Achieving Integration. I hope to see you there!

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

Warm wishes,


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,


Overcoming fears and resistance in psychotherapy

One of the great contradictions of working with people who are suffering is that, of course, they want to stop suffering – that is why they come to see you in the first place and generally keep coming, week after week, hoping for change. But sometimes those same people seem to do everything in their power to resist actually changing. They might not do their homework, instead expecting you to provide some kind of therapeutic magic in a single hour a week. They may say, ‘I know you’re right, but…’ over and over. Or they may resist the change process in countless subtle ways, which are hard to detect without a keen eye on the transference and what’s actually happening in the room.

In schema therapy terms, we could say there is at least one part of them, the Healthy Adult mode, that very much wants change. This is the mode that brings them to therapy in the first place, even if they are scared, mistrustful or sceptical that you can actually make a difference after a lifetime of suffering. And this is the mode we want to work with, encourage and build throughout therapy – I often use the metaphor of a weak muscle that needs training to become stronger and more powerful in the person’s life.

But of course there is often at least one part (and often more, especially with complex cases) of them that absolutely does not want to change. In mode terms, this is commonly the Detached Protector, which tries to protect them by avoiding strong emotions, upsetting material, or intimate connections with other people. Detached Protectors keep people in their heads, where it’s safe, or make sure relationships are superficial and so non-threatening. Clearly, this part is not overly fond of the emotionally intense and relationally intimate process of long-term therapy…

And of course we want to help reduce the impact of this mode, in our clients’ lives and especially in the therapeutic process, because it blocks progress. But it’s crucial that we also respect the resistance, because this is a protector mode – it is blocking change for a reason. Perhaps the person finds their emotions overwhelming, so has learned to avoid or minimise them to feel safe. They may have had strong messages as a child that being rational was good and emotional bad or a sign of weakness.

The uncomfortable comfort zone

Some people fear that if they risk change, things might get even worse. Better to stay in what I call the ‘uncomfortable comfort one’ – it’s not very pleasant, but it is familiar and therefore safe. So we never want to push our clients to change, or rush them. Real change takes time, patience, encouragement, understanding. We can work with the modes that are blocking change in all sorts of ways – using imagery or chair work, for example.

But we need to work hard to help our clients’ Vulnerable Child feel safe first, which in real terms means lots of attunement, kindness, saying the right things and, more importantly, behaving in trustworthy ways. And then change, slowly and miraculously, occurs.

If you would like to know more about overcoming your client’s fears and resistance, come along to any of the workshops below. And if you have any questions about 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

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,


Schema Therapy Skills workshops in North London

I am pleased to announce that I have launched a new venture, Schema Therapy Skills, and from May 2019 I will be teaching monthly one-day therapy-skills workshops from my office in East Finchley. My skills workshops will cover a range of subjects that will be interesting to and highly useful for fellow professionals – including trainee and experienced counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers and doctors – working in a wide range of settings and from many different modalities. I am keen to limit group sizes to a maximum of six, to offer an intimate, friendly environment in which there is ample space for questions, discussion, skills practice and input on therapeutic challenges or difficult cases.

The first one-day workshop, Working with Imagery: Powerful, Transformative Techniques to Enhance Your Clinical Practice, will be held on 31st May 2019 and cost £180 including refreshments, training materials and certificate of attendance. On this workshop you will learn how to use techniques such as imagery rescripting to transform the meaning and emotional content of upsetting memories from your client’s past. I will also explain the many ways in which imagery can be used diagnostically and to help people with present-day and future challenges.

UPCOMING workshops:

Working with Modes: Embracing Complexity & Achieving Integration, 21st June 2019 (£180)

Introduction to Schema Therapy, 1st July 2019 (£180)

Attachment & Limited Reparenting: the Healing Power of a Warm, Authentic Relationship, 27th September 2019 (£180)

Chair Work Techniques: Enhancing the Creativity & Emotional Impact of Your Practice, 25th October 2019 (£180)

Transforming the Critic: Working with Self-Dislike, Punitiveness & Perfectionism, 29th November 2019 (£180)

Working with Trauma & Complex Cases: A Schema Therapy-Informed Approach to Formulation & Treatment, 13th December 2019 (£180)

If you would like to find out more about my workshops, call me on 07766 704210 or use the contact form to get in touch.

Warm wishes,