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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Vs Schema Therapy

February 13th, 2023

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Schema Therapy are two popular forms of psychotherapy that aim to help individuals improve their mental health. Both techniques have been widely researched and have demonstrated efficacy in treating various mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. However, while they share similarities, they also have distinct differences that make them unique in their approach to treatment.

How long does CBT versus Schema Therapy take?

CBT is a short-term, goal-oriented form of therapy that is based on the premise that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interrelated and can impact each other in significant ways. CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to psychological distress and maladaptive behaviors. Through CBT, individuals learn to challenge and reframe negative thoughts and beliefs in order to develop a more positive outlook on life and improve their mental health. CBT sessions typically involve discussing current problems and setting goals for improvement, as well as teaching coping strategies and behavioral techniques to help manage difficult emotions and situations.

In contrast, Schema Therapy is a long-term form of therapy that is based on the idea that our early life experiences shape our personality and can lead to the development of “schemas” or negative coping patterns. Schemas are thought to be deeply ingrained patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are triggered by specific situations and lead to emotional distress and maladaptive behaviors. Schema Therapy aims to help individuals identify and change these schemas in order to improve their overall mental health. This is done through a combination of talking therapy, behavioral techniques, and imaginative techniques such as role-playing and visualization exercises.

One key difference between CBT and Schema Therapy is the length of treatment. CBT is typically a short-term form of therapy that lasts anywhere from 6 to 20 sessions, while Schema Therapy is a longer-term form of therapy that can last up to two years or more. This difference in treatment length reflects the difference in the underlying theories of the two approaches. CBT assumes that negative thought patterns and beliefs can be changed relatively quickly, while Schema Therapy assumes that deep-seated schemas developed over a lifetime will take longer to change.

Schema Therapy is gaining in popularity

According to a publication by the Schema Therapy Society, “Schema therapy has been gaining increasing recognition as a highly effective evidence-based treatment for a range of mental health problems, including personality disorders, anxiety, and depression.”

It’s increasing popularity is seeing many CBT therapists retrain in aspects like imagery rescripting.

Different approaches

Another important difference between CBT and Schema Therapy is the focus of treatment. CBT is more focused on the present and helps individuals manage their current difficulties, while Schema Therapy is more focused on the past and helps individuals understand and change their negative schemas. Schema Therapy is often described as a “whole-person” approach to treatment, as it takes into account the individual’s entire life history and personality, while CBT is more focused on specific problems and symptoms.

In terms of effectiveness, both CBT and Schema Therapy have been shown to be effective in treating a range of mental health conditions. However, research suggests that Schema Therapy may be more effective for individuals with more severe or chronic psychological difficulties, such as personality disorders. CBT has been found to be effective for treating a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and is often recommended as a first-line treatment for these conditions.


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