Positive schemas in schema therapy with older adults: Clinical implications and research suggestions

A. C. Videler*, R. J. J. Van Royen, M. J. H. Legra, M. A. Ouwens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Schema therapy is an effective treatment for borderline personality disorder and other complex disorders. Schema therapy is feasible in older adults, and the first empirical support for its effectiveness in later life was provided in older patients with a cluster C personality disorder. The central concept of the schema therapy model is the early maladaptive schema (EMS). Early adaptive schemas (EAS) give rise to adaptive behaviour, and they also emerge during childhood, when core emotional needs are adequately met by primary caregivers.

To examine the concept of EAS and its application in schema therapy with older adults.

Literature review and case example: the role of EAS in schema therapy with older adults is discussed and suggestions for integrating EAS in schema therapy in later life are proposed.

Directing attention in therapy to EAS may help strengthen the healthy adult mode, and it might also help change a negative life review. Working with positive schemas may be an important avenue for re-awakening positive aspects of patients, reinforcing the therapeutic relationship, creating a positive
working atmosphere, and also for facilitating the introduction of experiential schema therapy techniques.

This review suggests that positive schemas may be important vehicles of therapeutic change when working with older people. There is a need for validating the Young Positive Schema Questionnaire (YPSQ) in older adults, and for examining whether integrating EAS in schema therapy with older adults indeed has a positive effect on therapy outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-491
JournalBehavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • older adults
  • positive schemas
  • schema therapy

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