Episode 12: Jeff Young Interview Part 1

Wayne's World, Schemas and More

Part 1 interview with the originator of schema therapy Dr. Jeffery Young, discussing developmental origins of schema therapy, schemas and modes, and the future of schema therapy.

Lead singer of a megadeath rockband or renowned schema therapy creator, Jeff Young dives into the origins of schema therapy.

Before developing his own therapy his main goal was to study as many different types of therapy as possible. Jeff always envisioned what the different methods to practice therapy should be; constantly striving to find the therapy that fits all and when there would be a close fit, there would always be one or more clients that didn’t quite fit the puzzle.

Starting therapy in his early 20s, Jeff’s mindset was very logic-driven and his devoted interests were to solve problems through logic, debates, and discussions. All in all, he concluded he was more in touch with logic than feelings at that age like many young men are. After decades of practice, he realized emotions are significant to his practice. “I was much more in touch with my mind than I was with my feelings.” Jeff stated, “The turning point was my recognition of how important emotions are to me as a person and also in doing therapy.”

Once he began his own practice he realized working with a diverse group of patients meant the practices he was using, for example, to treat depression, wasn’t the central problem anymore. Diverse groups mean diverse outcomes. There may be numerous issues such as personality disorders. So that was a light bulb moment… A new drive.

So... What’s the solution... if everyone is different? 

There’s got to be something else….  Driven by feeling stuck and multiple difficult patients. Every step of his career and every diverse client with different multiple issues meant coming up with new ideas constantly. How one develops their therapy practice is figuring out how clients are different and which therapy to use (if any). 

For example, when Jeff began his own practice, he began meeting clients with multiple issues. One form of therapy that worked for depression was having little to no effect on a client with borderline or multi-personality disorder. 

If someone has many schemas and is different every time they walk through your door, what can you do? Schemas were not enough for borderline patients. umping from one to the other because they have many schemas. Every time they come in they have a state shift, whether it be depressed, angry, or self punitive. So how do you help someone develop or heal when they’re jumping from one personality to the other?

Jeff realized he needed to do something with the model itself. It’s not just a technical change anymore but a model change. How are these clients different and how can he adapt?

So he began thinking of state changes. Not that there are merely other schemas from other patients but other states. Since the model was focusing on personality traits it doesn’t fit when clients flip from one state to another in each session. There would be no progression as there would be no constant growth. 

So, if there are different modes within an individual... each mode should be thought of as individuals…. right? He began to give names to the different parts of an individual when the clients would come in. 

He realized some clients would create similar modes of themselves. Instead of one little child as an average client may have, a borderline client may have four little inner children, of four different ages and four different experiences. When they would enter one mode, it was usually extreme, with no access to turn it on or off, or even switch to their other modes. 

Whenever personality disorder clients shift states, from a depressed state to an anxious state, they’re partly dissociating other parts of themselves. The healthy or even punitive, or angry parts are pushed away, and then whatever state is in control of themselves predominates and takes over at that time. The question of how extreme these states may be, depends on each individual. 

So all in all, different personalities disorders have different modes so they have to be treated as if they are individual people. So to adapt the model Jeff had to create more modes…. The child mode, the teenage, the adult coping mode etc. etc. to adapt to the needs of these clients and their different modes within their different schemas. 

Modes are the states people go into when schemas are triggered; so that way we can blend the schema concept with the mode concept.

 - Jeffrey Young (19:53)


The model has two parts, the depths of the schemas and the modes. Modes are what happens when schemas are triggered. But why was that mode triggered?  If you don’t know the developmental origin you won’t know what to do with the mode. You take the mode, you dig deep down to figure out what schema it’s connected or linked to then you work on the mode and the schema simultaneously = MODE WORK.  

Some therapists start focusing on mode and think they can solely practice mode work and just talk about mode therapy as a separate therapy.  Schema therapy is a developmental model that starts in childhood and moves on to the present.  As soon as you forget the schemas and only focus on the modes, you’re using a developmental model but a present model. Present models ultimately do not fit this two-model concept and you might as well be using a different type of therapy. Remember, when working with the mode model the most important thing is to not lose track of the schemas. These two concepts work best together and are what ultimately makes schema therapy what it is today.