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Schemas as memories: Implications for treatment

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Mark FreestonORCiD, Dr Stephen Barton


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Schemas are usually viewed as core dysfunctional beliefs, lying dormant until activated by a salient trigger (i.e., the diathesis-stress model). It is suggested that they are long-standing, stable themes that are specific to the individual. They are formed during childhood in an attempt by the person to cope with life events and environmental situations. Once schemas are active, they become the engine room of negative automatic thoughts and serve to bias information negatively. This prototypical description has a number of implications. Indeed, it clearly suggests that schemas are stored units of information that can be activated at some future time under the "appropriate" cueing conditions-in other words, they are memories. Developing this perspective, this article argues that therapists should have a broader concept of the nature of schemas and, rather than viewing them solely as cognitions, therapists should view them as stored multisensory representations. As such, schemas can be adequately described as representations of past experiences that are composed of cognitions and sensory features (olfactory, tactile, taste, etc.) that are both stored and retrieved as coherent units. Hence, when treating someone with depression, in addition to assessing the cognitions, one should determine whether there are sounds, tastes, body postures, and/or other sensory features associated with the patient's experience of his/her depression. If such features are found to be present, they need to be assessed appropriately and duly targeted with suitable intervention strategies. © 2007 Springer Publishing Company.

Publication metadata

Author(s): James IA, Reichelt FK, Freeston MH, Barton SB

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Year: 2007

Volume: 21

Issue: 1

Pages: 51-57

ISSN (print): 0889-8391

ISSN (electronic): 1938-887X

Publisher: Springer Publishing Company


DOI: 10.1891/088983907780493296


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