What are modes?
In schema therapy, we try to help people with two main things: first, healing their schemas, such as Abandonment, Defectiveness, Vulnerability or Pessimism/Worry that are at the root of all forms of psychological distress. For example, if you are struggling with anxiety, you will almost certainly have a Vulnerability schema, which means you feel anxious and vulnerable when faced with certain triggers, like public speaking, groups of people or travelling on the Tube. You may also have a Pessimism/Worry schema, which causes excessive and unhelpful worry about a range of potential problems in the future, such as running into financial trouble or your husband having an affair.
As well as healing these painful schemas, we also work on your modes – which are different parts of you, or sides of your personality. We all have these modes, which we develop partly as ways of coping with upsetting or traumatic experiences in our childhood. So a common coping mode is the Detached Protector, which tries to keep us from feeling unpleasant and potentially overwhelming emotions like anxiety, anger, sadness or loneliness.
When this mode is active, we may feel disconnected, spacey or numb; we might also be very much 'in our heads', rationalising and intellectualising everything without experiencing much emotion. These coping modes are not bad in any way – in fact, they probably helped you cope with painful experiences in your childhood – but they are not so helpful now, so we work to reduce their influence over your day-to-day life.
Child and parent modes
We also work with your child modes in schema therapy, such as the Vulnerable Child, which is the part of you that feels scared, small, vulnerable and hurt. Or the Angry Child, which is the part that becomes furious when your needs are not met, or someone threatens you. These child modes need calming, soothing and reassuring – doing this will help you feel stronger and more at peace. We will also try to encourage your Contented Child to feel calm, safe and at peace; and let your Happy Child bring some joy and lightness into your life (if you would like to know what this mode looks like, see below!).
And 'maladaptive parent' modes such as the Punitive Parent, which attacks, criticises and punishes you for perceived weaknesses and failings; or the Demanding Parent, which has impossibly high standards and drives you relentlessly on, potentially causing stress, exhaustion and burnout. These critical modes can be really damaging, especially when they are very strong; so we work to turn down the volume of their harsh, critical commentary and reduce their power over you.
Working on these two levels, I am able to help people with a wide range of problems – everything from OCD to panic attacks, depression, chronic stress, relationship problems, eating disorders, anger-management, personality disorders and traumatic incidents from childhood. I am passionate about schema therapy because it is a warm, compassionate, highly effective approach that can help people with even the most severe problems, as well as deep-rooted issues that other therapies have not been able to address.