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What are Schema Modes?

A Schema Mode refers to the main state a person is in. We all experience different states and have different reactions – including psychologically healthy people. Modes can be thought of as the different ‘parts’ to our personality that characterise our reactions to events.  They can become most apparent when we are stressed in some way. A very wide range of difficulties can be explained using Schema Modes, from common problems with stress and relationships, to serious mental health problems.

Modes describe our state on all levels – cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioural:

  • Cognitive – the way we are thinking – ideas and images that come to mind, what we can recall, and what we tend to notice
  • Emotional – the way we feel, patterns and extremes of emotion
  • Physical – the physiological state of our body, including our bodily sensations and the state of our organs and muscles
  • Behavioural – our state of activation, including the urges we experience and the actions we engage in

Schema Modes are grouped in 4 categories – Child, Parent, Coping and Healthy Modes. 

The Child Modes are our innate potential to react in a child-like way, including Vulnerable, Angry, Impulsive, Undisciplined and Happy states. Adults need to learn how to navigate and manage these enduring states as they mature.

The Healthy Adult Mode is the part of us that can navigate life’s challenges effectively, balancing our personal goals with recognition of our emotional needs and those of others. Schema Therapy aims to help you develop and strengthen this Mode.

The Parent Modes incorporate negative messages and treatment we may have experienced as we were growing up, including excessive guilt, rejection, punishment or pressure. Therapy aims to help you learn how to moderate and – where necessary – eliminate the destructive influence of these Modes.

Coping Modes include a variety of problematic ways to manage emotions, including ways to avoid, surrender or overcompensate for our feelings. Therapy aims to bypass any problematic coping styles and replace them with more healthy strategies.