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09-02-2021 | Original Article Open Access

Towards a Reformulated Theory Underlying Schema Therapy: Position Paper of an International Workgroup

Cognitive Therapy and Research
Arnoud Arntz, Marleen Rijkeboer, Edward Chan, Eva Fassbinder, Alp Karaosmanoglu, Christopher William Lee, Marta Panzeri
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10608-021-10209-5.
Arnoud Arntz and Marleen Rijkeboer shared first authorship.

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A central construct in Schema Therapy (ST) is that of a schema mode, describing the current emotional-cognitive-behavioral state. Initially, 10 modes were described. Over time, with the world-wide increasing and broader application of ST to various disorders, additional schema modes were identified, mainly based on clinical impressions. Thus, the need for a new, theoretically based, cross-cultural taxonomy of modes emerged.


An international workgroup started from scratch to identify an extensive taxonomy of modes, based on (a) extending the theory underlying ST with new insights on needs, and (b) recent research on ST theory supporting that modes represent combinations of activated schemas and coping.


We propose to add two emotional needs to the original five core needs that theoretically underpin the development of early maladaptive schemas (EMSs), i.e., the need for Self-Coherence, and the need for Fairness, leading to three new EMSs, i.e. Lack of a Coherent Identity, Lack of a Meaningful World, and Unfairness. When rethinking the purpose behind the different ways of coping with EMS-activation, we came up with new labels for two of those: Resignation instead of Surrender, and Inversion instead of Overcompensation. By systematically combining EMSs and ways of coping we derived a set of schema modes that can be empirically tested.


With this project, we hope to contribute to the further development of ST and its application across the world.

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