The effectiveness of adapted schema therapy for cluster C personality disorders in older adults: Integrating positive schemas

L. Van Donzel*, M. A. Ouwens, S. P. J. Van Alphen, S. Bouwmeester, A.C. Videler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Schema therapy (ST) is an efficacious psychotherapy for personality disorders (PDs) in adults. The first empirical support for the effectiveness of ST in older adults with cluster C PDs was provided recently. ST partly focusses on the positive, but there is an increasing awareness of imbalance in the ST community because of the emphasis on negative schemas versus attention to positive schemas. Positive schemas may be important vehicles of therapeutic change in psychotherapy with older people, as it may help strengthen the healthy adult mode, and it might also help change a negative life review. Suggestions were made to increase the efficacy and feasibility of ST in older adults, including adjusting the case conceptualisation, modifying the experiential techniques, making use of the patient's wisdom and reactivating positive schemas. The aim of the current study is to investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of adapted individual ST for older adults.

A multiple baseline design is used with positive and negative core beliefs as primary outcome measures. Ten older adults (age > 60 years) with cluster C PDs are treated with schema therapy, with weekly sessions during one year. This treatment phase is preceded by a baseline phase varying randomly from 4 to 8 weeks. After treatment, there is a 6-month follow-up phase with monthly booster sessions. Symptomatic distress, schema modes, early maladaptive schemas (EMS) and early adaptive schemas (EAS) are secondary outcome measures. PD will be diagnosed before baseline and after treatment phase. EAS are assessed with the Dutch version of the Young Positive Schema Questionnaire (YPSQ).

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical study in which positive schemas are integrated in ST treatment to examine the efficacy of an adapted form of ST for older adults. This is in line with wider developments supporting the integration of positive schema's into ST. It offers the possibility to improve the effectiveness of ST in older adults.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100715
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Schema Therapy
  • positive schemas
  • early adaptive schemas
  • Personality disorders


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