A first step toward integrating schema theory in geriatric psychiatry: a Delphi study

M. J. H. Legra*, F. R. J. Verhey, S. P. J. van Alphen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)
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Background: Schematherapy (ST) is an effective therapy for personality disorders (PD's) in adults, however, empirical research into ST in older adults is limited. The manifestation of schemas over the life course is unclear. Besides, long-term patterns of schemas in old age and whether schemas change during the aging process remain unknown.

Methods: We performed a Delphi study involving a group meeting of nine experts in the field of ST in older adults.

Results: Full consensus was achieved that schemas vary later in life, and that this is due to biopsychosocial factors. The concepts of schema triggering (the chance that a maladaptive schema is activated) and schema coping (the psychological and behavioral effort a person makes to minimize the stress that comes with the schema) in the past are important in clinical practice. Understanding how schemas are triggered during the life course and how patients deal with their schemas throughout life will help the therapist to complete the diagnostic puzzle in older individuals and to choose appropriate interventions.

Conclusion: Schemas are flexible and dynamic constructs that can fade or intensify due to multiple factors. This study is a first step toward advancing the state of knowledge regarding schema theory in an aging population. The results will contribute to improvements in ST in older adults by developing an understanding of the plasticity of schemas during the life course.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1069-1076
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • psychotherapy
  • schema therapy
  • older adults
  • personality disorders
  • Delphi technique
  • AGE

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