All things grow with care and love


The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.

— Alfred Austin



Schema therapy is a newer type of therapy that combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoanalysis, attachment theory, and emotion-focused therapy, among others.

It’s an integrative approach that aims to treat personality disorders and other mental health concerns that don’t always respond to other treatment options. It can be particularly useful for treating borderline personality disorder.

In schema therapy, you’ll work with a therapist to uncover and understand your schemas, sometimes called early maladaptive schemas.

Schemas are unhelpful patterns that some people develop if their emotional needs aren’t met as a child.

These schemas can affect you throughout life and contribute to problematic coping methods and behaviors if they aren’t addressed.

Schema therapy aims to teach you how to ensure your emotional needs are met in a healthy way that doesn’t cause distress.

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What contributes to this development?

In addition, four types of negative experiences can also contribute to the development of schemas. These include:

  • Unfulfilled needs. This can happen when you don’t receive affection from caregivers or fail to have other core emotional needs met.

  • Traumatization or victimization. This describes a situation when you experienced abuse, trauma, or similar distress.

  • Overindulgence or lack of limits. In this situation, your parents may have been overprotective or overinvolved. They may not have set proper boundaries for you.

  • Selective identification and internalization. This refers to the way you absorb some of your parents’ attitudes or behaviors. You might identify with some of these and internalize others. Some may develop into schemas, while others develop into modes, also called coping methods.

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One of the biggest factors in the development of schemas is not having your core emotional needs met as a child. These core needs include:


a sense of safety and being securely attached to others


a sense of self-identity and autonomy


the freedom to express how you feel and ask for what you need from others


the ability to play and be spontaneous


safe, age-appropriate limits and boundaries

Thinking Man on Couch


Schemas tend to develop in childhood and are usually resistant to change. But left unmanaged, schemas can cause negative patterns that are often reinforced through unhealthy interactions.

Once you develop a schema, it can unconsciously influence your thoughts and actions in an effort to prevent emotional distress. While this sounds like it could be useful, the coping methods that schemas create are often unhealthy or harmful.

Most people tend to develop more than one schema.

Experts have identified 18 distinct schemas, but they all fall into one of five categories or domains:

  • Domain I, disconnection and rejection, includes schemas that make it difficult to develop healthy relationships.

  • Domain II, impaired autonomy and performance, includes schemas that make it difficult to develop a strong sense of self and function in the world as an adult.

  • Domain III, impaired limits, includes schemas that affect self-control and the ability to respect boundaries and limits.

  • Domain IV, other-directedness, includes schemas that lead you to prioritize the needs of others above your own.

  • Domain V, overvigilance and inhibition, includes schemas that prioritize avoiding failure or mistakes through alertness, rules, and disregarding desires or emotions.

Stressed Woman


In schema therapy, your reactions to schemas are known as coping styles. These can involve thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. They develop as a way of avoiding the painful and overwhelming emotions experienced as a result of a certain schema.

Coping styles can be helpful in childhood, as they provide a means of survival. But in adulthood, they can reinforce schemas.

There aren’t any firm rules about which schemas lead to certain coping styles. Your coping style might be based on your overall temperament or even coping styles you learned from your parents.

They also vary from person to person. Two people could respond to the same schema with the same style in very different ways. Similarly, two people with the same schema might also respond with two separate styles.

Your own coping style can also change over time, although you’re still dealing with the same schema.

The three main coping styles loosely correlate with the fight-or-flight or freeze response:


This involves accepting a schema and giving into it. It usually results in behavior that reinforces or continues the schema pattern.

For example, if you surrender to a schema that formed as a result of emotional neglect as a child, you may later find yourself in a relationship involving emotional neglect.


This involves attempting to live without triggering the schema. You might avoid activities or situations that could possibly trigger it or make you feel vulnerable.

Avoiding your schema may leave you more prone to substance use, risky or compulsive behavior, and other behaviors that provide a distraction.


This involves attempting to fight a schema by acting in complete opposition to it. This may seem like a healthy response to a schema, but overcompensation generally goes too far.

It often leads to actions or behaviors that seem aggressive, demanding, insensitive, or excessive in some way. This can take a toll on your relationships with others.

Mother with her Child


The Happy Child and Health Adult 
The Self

In schema therapy, a mode is a temporary mindset that includes both your present emotional state and how you’re dealing with it.

In other words, your mode is a combination of active schemas and coping styles. Modes can be helpful (adaptive) or unhelpful (maladaptive).

Schema modes help therapists group schemas together so they can address them as a single state of mind, rather than individual traits.

Schema modes are divided into four categories:

  • Child modes are characterized by childlike feelings and behaviors.

  • Dysfunctional coping modes are used to prevent emotional distress but end up reinforcing the schema.

  • Dysfunctional parent modes are internalizations of critical, demanding, or harsh parental voices.

  • Healthy adult mode represents your healthy, functional self. This mode can help regulate the other modes by setting limits and countering the effects of other modes.



What are the goals of schema therapy?

In schema therapy, you’ll work with your therapist to:

  • identify and begin healing schemas

  • identify and address coping styles that get in the way of emotional needs

  • change patterns of feelings and behaviors that result from schemas

  • learn how to get your core emotional needs met in healthy, adaptive ways

  • learn how to cope (in a healthy way) with frustration and distress when certain needs can’t be met

Ultimately, all of this will help you develop a a strong, healthy adult mode. A well-developed healthy adult mode can help heal and regulate other modes and help keep you from being overwhelmed by their effects.



Schema therapists might use several techniques over the course of therapy. Certain techniques may work better for some people and schemas than others. If a certain technique doesn’t work for you, be sure to let your therapist know.

On that note, keep in mind that your relationship with your therapist is an important part of schema therapy. There are two important concepts that pop up in many of the techniques used in schema therapy. Both work best when you feel safe and comfortable with your therapist.


Emotive techniques involve using emotions to counter schemas. They help you fully experience emotions and express them in the safety of therapy. Common emotive techniques include guided imagery and role-playing.


Interpersonal techniques help you examine your relationships to identify ways schemas affect them.

Seeing how schemas and responses play out in therapy can help you uncover similar patterns in your life. This might involve bringing in a partner or close friend to a therapy session.


Cognitive techniques involve identifying and challenging harmful thought patterns that result from schemas. You’ll work with your therapist to review life experiences for evidence that supports or contradicts the schema.

This might be done through the use of flashcards or structured conversations in which you’ll speak both in favor of and against a schema.


Behavioral techniques help you learn to make positive, healthy choices by changing the behavior patterns that result from your coping style.

To change behavioral patterns, you might work on communication skills through role-play or talk through a problem and solution with your therapist. They might also give you some exercise to do between sessions.



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Therapy Session


My therapeutic approach is supportive, compassionate, and trauma-informed.   I  draw from other experiential and body-centered therapies that teach us that we are all wired for growth and healing.  Some of you may want to learn more about the interaction between thoughts, feelings, and behavior(CBT) or how to manage your dysregulated emotions (DBT) while others may want to have a better relationship with their thoughts, feelings, memories, and bodily sensations (ACT). Some of you because of trauma may want to explore experiential, innovative ways to manage disturbing memories (EMDR). While others may want to learn more about the roots of their life patterns, how they were developed, how they are maintained, and how they can be healed (Schema Therapy). Yet others may want to relate to all parts of themselves with mindful compassionate awareness,  even the parts they find shameful. They want to open their arms and say "You are all welcome here" (IFS). Some may want to learn how to have a Mindful Practice and how to have a  compassionate, inner relationship with parts of themselves (Focusing).  While others may want a supportive relationship with a therapist to figure things out, and that's ok. Many of you want to join a workshop to learn more about different modalities, while others may want to incorporate creative coping strategies to work with your life issues. Just click the link to learn more.

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I am a bilingual (English/Spanish) culturally sensitive trauma-informed psychotherapist who draws from the Bowen Family Systems therapeutic perspective.  With couples, I use the Prepare-Enrich online inventory (40-60 min) in English and Spanish. A Prepare-Enrich program is a useful tool for premarital, cohabitating, and married couples to identify areas of strength. I am trained in Emotion Focused Couples Therapy but draw from other approaches of couples therapy.



I integrate expressive arts in my psychotherapy practice as a creative method to cope with life challenges and support your growth. Expressive arts therapies used vary depending on your needs, but they include therapeutic journaling, and writing, visual art journaling as well  Bibliotherapy/Poetry therapy,  a therapeutic modality that involves the reading of poetry, or a specific narrative or story with the purpose of growth and healing.  I also provide clinical Bibliotherapy, the use of therapy books for therapeutic support, see events. (