This study tested the hypothesis that treatment of childhood memories is an effective way to change personality disorder related schemas and psychopathology in cognitive therapy for personality disorders. To test this hypothesis, a crossover design was used to compare the effectiveness of methods focusing on the present and methods focusing on childhood memories. After the exploration period, the therapist focused either first on the present during 24 sessions and than for 24 sessions on childhood memories, or followed the reverse order. Twenty-one patients with one or more Axis II disorders were included. Participants were randomly assigned to order of focus. Results indicate that CT methods focusing on childhood memories produce good outcomes, comparable to those of methods focusing on the present. There was no significant effect of order, but both patients and therapists preferred the past-present order. Total effects of the package were large and were maintained till one-year follow-up (d's 0.97-1.90). Experience of the therapist with CT for personality disorders was related to better outcome (d = 0.73).