Schema Therapy From An African-American Perspective...

Psychologist Jeffrey Young developed the schema-focused therapy approach to address lifelong, self-defeating patterns called early maladaptive schemas. Young and associates identified 18 early maladaptive schemas that develop when needs are not met in childhood. However, in this blog article, I explore schema theory from an African-American perspective.


What are Schemas?

Schemas are core beliefs that define who we are and direct how we live our lives. Schemas create the internal monologue that characterizes the thoughts, assumptions, and interpretations that inform each person's individual worldview. When a schema is activated, it produces intense emotions.


As a marriage and family therapist, I tend to focus on the schemas that have significant relevance to interpersonal relationships. I have found the following schemas to be key in the lives of my African-American clients; however, I do not consider them to be maladaptive--Instead, it is the schema coping behaviors that I believe are maladaptive.


Key Schemas for African-Americans


Mistrust and abuse: the expectation that you will be harmed through abuse or neglect


Emotional deprivation: the expectation that your needs for emotional support won't be met (deprivation of empathy: the absence of understanding)


Defectiveness and shame: the belief that you are defective, inferior, or unlovable


Social isolation and alienation: the belief that you don't belong to a group, are isolates, or are radically different from others


Failure: the belief that you are inadequate or incompetent and will ultimately fail


Subjugation: voluntarily meeting the needs of others at the expense of your own needs, submitting to others to avoid real or perceived consequences, or surrendering control to others due to real or perceived coercion


Unrelenting standards and hypercriticalness: the belief that you must meet very high internalized standards to avoid criticism, leading to impairment in areas of life such as pleasure, health, and satisfying relationships


To be continued...