Discovering emotional states in one’s self and in other people: An interactive, self-experience workshop combining Schema Therapy and Positive Psychology
Background and purpose
The Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget used the phrase, “little scientist,” to describe the child who discovers the laws of nature by interacting with the world around him. In this spirit, I have developed a series of new interactive games and exercises that enable participants to learn about their own emotional states and those of other people. The games and exercises are intended to be playful as well as confronting. They foster insight and compassion towards ourselves and other people, and emphasize building strengths, a central tenet of Positive Psychology. No background in Schema Therapy or Positive Psychology is required for this workshop.
The games and exercises focus on schema modes, a central concept in Schema Therapy. Schema modes are moment-to-moment emotional states that combine cognitions, affects, and coping behaviors (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011). Empirical research supports the central tenets of mode theory, including the role of modes in personality disorders (Bamelis et al., 2011; Keulen-de Vos et al., 2014; Lobbestael et al., 2008) and their importance as targets for treatment (Bamelis et al., 2014; Bernstein et al., 2012; Giesen-Bloo et al., 2006; Nadort et al., 2009).
The games and exercises in this workshop help participants become aware of unhealthy modes – the ones that involve old emotional wounds and ineffective coping – and enhance healthy modes that involve insight, self-direction, compassion, playfulness, and humor. Most of the games and exercises revolve around a set of cards that I have developed with the comic artist, “Vick,” which represent the various schema modes in a cartoon-like form. Each participant uses a set of the cards to discover the modes in himself or herself and other people, working individually and in small groups, in a way that optimizes each person’s individual learning style. In this workshop, we will focus especially on the way in which schema modes trigger each other in our relationships with patients, leading to stuck points in the therapy. Participants can choose for themselves which patients to focus on.
We are now conducting several pilot studies as part of the Safe Path program, where we use this approach to teach treatment teams how to work with schema modes in youth and adults who are recovering from criminal and addictive behavior. In these trainings, the mode cards and interactive games and exercises appear to greatly enhance the learning process, fostering insight, compassion, and a strengths-based perspective towards oneself and one’s patients.