Schema Therapy for Personality Disorders: a Qualitative Study of Patients' and Therapists' Perspectives

Noor de Klerk*, Tineke A. Abma, Lotte L. M. Bamelis, Arnoud Arntz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Several studies have evaluated the (cost) effectiveness of schema therapy for personality disorders, but little research has been done on the perspectives of patients and therapists. Aim: The present study aims to explore patients' and therapists' perspectives on schema therapy. Method: Qualitative data were collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews with 15 patients and a focus group of 8 therapists. A thematic analysis was performed. Results: Most patients and therapists agreed that helpful aspects in schema therapy were the highly committed therapeutic relationship, the transparent and clear theoretical model, and the specific schema therapy techniques. About unhelpful aspects, several patients and some therapists shared the opinion that 50 sessions was not enough. Furthermore, patients lacked clear advance information about the possibility that they might temporarily experience stronger emotions during therapy and the possibility of having telephone contact outside session hours. They missed practical goals in the later stage of therapy. With regard to imagery, patients experienced time pressure and they missed a proper link between the past and the present. For therapists, it was hard to manage the therapeutic relation, to get used to a new kind of therapy and to keep the treatment focused on personality problems. Conclusions: Patients and therapists found some aspects of the schema therapy protocol helpful. Their views about which aspects are unhelpful and their recommendations need to be taken into consideration when adjusting the protocol and implementing schema therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Schema therapy
  • personality disorder
  • qualitative research
  • perspectives


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