A-Z Teen Health Glossary

What It Is:

Teen Schema Therapy is an integrated therapeutic technique, developed as an offshoot of more traditional cognitive behavioral treatment.  It draws from a number of different therapeutic techniques, including both cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, and emotion-based therapies, and gives special attention to lifelong patterns, change techniques, and adaptive parenting strategies.  Teen Schema Therapy is particularly helpful in helping teens who are resistant to treatment, either because of the overwhelming symptoms exhibited and/or because they’ve been in treatment for a significant amount of time.  Along these lines, often times Teen Schema Therapy can be very successful when applied to such conditions as Teen Personality Disorders, Teen Eating Disorders, and those who’ve struggled with criminal offenses.


What It Looks Like:

Teen Schema Therapy is a therapeutic technique built around four main concepts that focus on addressing the self-defeating, recurring patterns (or schemas) that people continue to repeat throughout their lives.


The first concept of Teen Schema Therapy consists of the 18 Early Maladaptive Schemas, which refer to the core patterns people continue to repeat throughout our lives.  Some examples of these schemas include instances such as a child’s experiencing: abandonment, shame, isolation, and unrelenting standards.


The second concept of Teen Schema Therapy is called Early Schemas.  The Early Schemas relate back to the basic emotional needs of a child, and suggests that when those needs are not met at the proper time during childhood and/or adolescence, this deficiency leads to unhealthy patterns in the individual.  All of the 18 schemas connect to one of these specific early childhood needs.  Even though these schemas are repeated, and therefore, become familiar to the teens, they nonetheless continue to be affected by the patterns, in negative ways which they may not even be aware of.


The third concept of Teen Schema Therapy is Maladaptive Coping Styles, which refers to the negative ways which children or adolescents respond to these deficiencies in their lives, such as overcompensating, becoming angry, or perhaps surrendering and trying to become numb to their symptoms.  Some of these coping styles might include things drug or alcohol abuse, withdrawing from social life and relationships, or mistreatment of others.


The fourth concept of Teen Schema Therapy is called Schema Modes.  This refers to the every day cause-and-effect relationship between teens and their environments, with a focus on the coping mechanisms they develop and the “triggers” that are created from certain sensitivities.  At their most extreme, one of these modes might exhibit itself in the form of a Teen Personality Disorder, while a mild version of a mode could be a bad mood.


Teen Schema Therapy Treatment


Teen Schema Therapy focuses on helping teens to address the most underlying, root causes of their current symptoms, belief systems, and experience.  In this sense, it is a very holistic-minded and integrative approach, which lends itself well to Paradigm’s overreaching therapeutic philosophy.  By working with teens to help them identify their own negative patterns, as well as how those patterns may have come about during their childhood, therapists can help teens to become more aware of the deeper causes, behind their current symptoms.  Furthermore, therapists work with teens to identify their negative belief systems and patterns which have arisen as reactions toward their earlier experiences.  This can often help teens to feel a sense of clarity and control, as they can begin to gain insight as to what sorts of thoughts and/or experiences trigger them to feel negative symptoms.  And from here, therapists can also begin helping teens to implement positive changes and behaviors in their lives, and furthermore, to start feeling healthier and happier.



What determines whether Schema Therapy is right for my teen?

Generally speaking, Teen Schema Therapy can be incredibly useful in treating teens who have long-standing struggles with either Substance Abuse or Mental Health illness, and/or those who are resistant to treatment.  Because this therapy is founded in addressing teens’ histories and determining the root of the exhibited symptoms, this therapy might help to uncover aspects of the teen’s experience that were left untouched by other more traditional approaches.

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