Towards a Reformulated Theory Underlying Schema Therapy: Position Paper of an International Workgroup

Arnoud Arntz, Marleen Rijkeboer*, Edward Chan, Eva Fassbinder, Alp Karaosmanoglu, Christopher William Lee, Marta Panzeri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A central construct in Schema Therapy (ST) is that of a schema mode, describing the current emotional-cognitive-behavioral state. Initially, 10 modes were described. Over time, with the world-wide increasing and broader application of ST to various disorders, additional schema modes were identified, mainly based on clinical impressions. Thus, the need for a new, theoretically based, cross-cultural taxonomy of modes emerged.

An international workgroup started from scratch to identify an extensive taxonomy of modes, based on (a) extending the theory underlying ST with new insights on needs, and (b) recent research on ST theory supporting that modes represent combinations of activated schemas and coping.

We propose to add two emotional needs to the original five core needs that theoretically underpin the development of early maladaptive schemas (EMSs), i.e., the need for Self-Coherence, and the need for Fairness, leading to three new EMSs, i.e. Lack of a Coherent Identity, Lack of a Meaningful World, and Unfairness. When rethinking the purpose behind the different ways of coping with EMS-activation, we came up with new labels for two of those: Resignation instead of Surrender, and Inversion instead of Overcompensation. By systematically combining EMSs and ways of coping we derived a set of schema modes that can be empirically tested.

With this project, we hope to contribute to the further development of ST and its application across the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1020
Number of pages14
JournalCognitive Therapy and Research
Issue number6
Early online date9 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Schema therapy
  • Early maladaptive schemas
  • Schema modes
  • Needs
  • Personality disorders

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