Anyone ever heard of Schema Therapy, which was developed by Jeffrey Young? I've been reading about it lately and kind of like it so far. It takes some of its core ideas from the (frankly overrated) ideas of cognitive behavioral therapy and gives it a depth of meaning by also incorporating psychodynamic approaches. (Now if they could throw in narrative therapy with systems theories, it'd push all my buttons).
One of the core tenets of CBT (and also of people like Piaget) is that as we develop as children, we acquire knowledge through experience and organize it into cognitive structures called schemas. Schemas are essentially systems of understanding which helps us to understand and learn how to negotiate new situations and current relationships. They are supposed to be flexible enough to incorporate new information, allowing us to have a dynamic and increasingly sophisticated understanding of the world.
Where we get derailed as people is when we have rigid schemas that are maladaptive, getting in the way of being able to have satisfying relationships or diminishing our self worth. An example of a maladaptive schema may be this one—which I know I struggle with:
Mistrust/Abuse: The expectation that others will hurt, abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie, manipulate, or take advantage. Usually involves the perception that the harm is intentional or the result of unjustified and extreme negligence. May include the sense that one always ends up being cheated relative to others or "getting the short end of the stick."
As a result, as a person, I will likely be vulnerable to view people as being hostile based on early experiences where my skepticism was warranted and maybe more rejecting or hypersensitive to being hurt based on my prior experiences.
As an adult, I will tend to overcorrect—"Overcompensation, which means doing the opposite of what our schemas makes us feel" meaning I will tend to provoke people into confrontation and attempt to resolve my fears about being hurt repeatedly— though I will also use other strategies, like surrendering or avoiding people that may cause me harm.
The hope is to better understand and get underneath these cognitive structures to challenge them and allow for some greater flexibility in how I (and anyone else) confront the world. Perhaps— to put it simply— to challenge some of the early cognitive schemas as well as have a better and deeper understanding of how this impacts my affective state and interaction with the world.
So, check out the website. You can take an inventory to see your cognitive schema, which might be useful in terms of promoting better insight and understanding of your own personal struggles.
Despite the dodgy website design, this is a very well respected and well researched treatment model and certainly less weird than gestalt therapy (but more on that later).
*I will be back soon to tell you a little bit about one of my favorite therapeutic models, Control Mastery Theory.