Skip to main content
Log in

Netherlands Journal of Psychology, 2007, number 3 Shedding light on schema modes: a clarification of the mode concept and its current research status

  • Article
  • Published:
Netherlands journal of psychology


While the schema mode construct is one of the main concepts of schema-focused therapy (SFT) for personality disorders (Young, 1990; Young & Klosko, 1994; Young, Klosko, & Weishaar, 2003), the mode concept lacks clear theoretical and scientific embedding, and therapeutic guidelines about when to use modes in clinical practice are not always clear. Therefore, the current article aims at clarifying schema modes theoretically and by therapeutic vignettes. Modes are different aspects of the self that reflect the currently active cluster of cognitions, emotions and behaviour (Young et al., 2003). The different schema modes are presented, as well as mode conceptualisations for several personality disorders. The distinction between healthy and pathological modes is outlined, as well as the link with dissociation and the concept of mode switching.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.


  1. These modes are enlisted in the Schema-Mode Inventory-Revised (Lobbestael, van Vreeswijk et al., 2005).


  • Arntz, A., & Bögels, S. (2000). Schemagerichte cognitieve therapie voor persoonlijkheidsstoornissen. [Schema-focused cognitive therapy for personality disorders]. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arntz, A., Klokman, J., & Sieswerda, S. (2005). An experimental test of the schema mode model of borderline personality disorder. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 36, 226-239.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Arntz, A., & Weertman, A. (1999). Treatment of childhood memories: Theory and practice. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 37, 715-740.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ball, S. A., & Cecero, J. J. (2001). Addicted patients with personality disorders: Traits, schemas, and presenting problems. Journal of Personality Disorders, 15, 72-83.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bamber, M. (2004). ‘The good, the bad and defenceless Jimmy‘- A single case study of schema mode therapy. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 11, 425-438.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bamelis, L., & Arntz, A. (2006). Psychological treatment of personality disorders: A multi-centered randomized controlled trial on the (cost-) effectiveness of Schema-Focussed Therapy. Manuscript in preparation.

  • Beck, A., & Freeman, A. (1990). Cognitive therapy for personality disorders. New York: The Guildford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beck, A., Freeman, A., & Davis, D. (2004). Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders. Second edition. New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bernstein, D. P., & Arntz, A. (Submitted for publication). Adapting and implementing Schema Focused Therapy in forensic settings: Theoretical model and guidelines for best clinical practice.

  • Giesen-Bloo, J., van Dyck, R., Spinhoven, P., van Tilburg, W., Dirksen, C., van Asselt, T., et al. (2006). Outpatient psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder. Randomized trial of Schema-Focused Therapy versus Transference-Focused Psychotherapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 649-658.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Haeyen, S. (2006). Imaginatie in beeldende therapie. Een schemagerichte benadering. [Imagination in imaging therapy: A schema focussed approach]. Tijdschrift voor Vaktherapie, 1, 3-8.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jovev, M., & Jackson, H.J. (2004). Early maladaptive schemas in personality disordered individuals. Journal of Personality Disorders, 18(5), 467-478.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Klokman, J., Arntz, A., & Sieswerda, S. (2001). The schema mode questionnaire (state and trait version), internal document. Maastricht: Maastricht University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lobbestael, J., Arntz, A., & Sieswerda, S. (2005). Schema modes and childhood abuse in borderline and antisocial personality disorders. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 36, 240-253.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lobbestael, J., van Vreeswijk, M., Arntz, A., & Spinhoven, P. (2006). The reliability and validity of the Schema Mode Inventory-revised (SMI-r). Manuscript in preparation.

  • Lobbestael, J., van Vreeswijk, M., Arntz, A., Spinhoven, P., & ‘t Hoen, T. (2005). The Schema Mode Inventory-revised. Maastricht: Maastricht University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lobbestael, J., van Vreeswijk, M. F., & Arntz, A. (2007). Schema modes in axis I and axis II patients and normal controls. Manuscript in preparation.

  • Lobbestael, J., Arntz, A. & Wiers, R. (2007). How to push someone's buttons: A comparison of four anger induction methods. Cognition and Emotion, [in press}.

  • Nadort, M. (2006). Implementation of out-patient schema-focused therapy for borderline personality disorder in regular psychiatry. Manuscript in preparation.

  • Paris, J. (1997). Antisocial and borderline personality disorders: two separate diagnoses or two aspects of the same psychopathology? Comprehensive Psychiatry, 38, 273-242.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Petrocelli, J.V., Glaser, B.A., Calhoun, G.B., & Campbell, L.F. (2001). Early Maladaptive Schemas of personality disorder subtypes. Journal of Personality Disorders, 15, 546-559.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Segal, Z., Williams, J., & Teasdale, J. (2002). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for depression. A new approach to preventing relapse. New York: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • van Genderen, H., & Arntz, A. (2005). Schemagerichte cognitieve therapie [Schema-focused cognitive therapy]. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Nieuwezijds.

    Google Scholar 

  • van Vreeswijk, M., Broersen, J., & Schurink, G. (2006). Werkboek voor behandelmodule schema en modi aandachtsgerichte training eendaagse schemagerichte dagbehandeling [Workbook for treatment module schema and schema focussed therapy training one-day schema-focused therapy]. Delft: GGZ Delfland.

    Google Scholar 

  • van Vreeswijk, M.F., & Broersen, J. (2006). Schemagerichte therapie in groepen [Schema-focused therapy in groups]. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, J. (2005). Schema-focused cognitive therapy and the case of Ms. S. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 15, 115-126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Young, J., Atkinson, T., Arntz, A., Engels, & Weishaar, M. (2005). The Young Atkinson Mode Inventory (YAMI-PM, 1B). New York: Schema Therapy Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, J. E. (1990). Cognitive therapy for personality disorders: A schema-focused approach. Sarasto: Professional Resource Exchange, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, J.E., & Klosko, J. (1994). Reinventing your life. New York: Plume.

    Google Scholar 

  • Young, J.E., Klosko, J., & Weishaar, M.E. (2003). Schema therapy: A practitioner’s guide. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Department of Clinical Psychology Research, Maastricht University

Delftland Mental Health Service, Outdoor Clinic, Location de Gravin, Delft

Correspondence to: Jill Lobbestael, Department of Clinical Psychology Research, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, NL 6200 MD Maastricht, E-mail:

Submitted 19 March 2007; revision accepted 21 June 2007.


A: List of the 22 schema modes

Child modes


Lonely ChildFootnote 1

Feels like a lonely child that is valued only insofar as (s)he can aggrandise his/her parents. Because the most important emotional needs of the child have generally not been met, the patient usually feels empty, alone, socially unacceptable, undeserving of love, unloved and unlovable.

Abandoned and Abused Child*

Feels the enormous emotional pain and fear of abandonment, which has a direct link with the abuse history. Has the affect of a lost child: sad, frightened, vulnerable, defenceless, hopeless, needy, victimised, worthless and lost. Patients appear fragile and childlike. They feel helpless and utterly alone and are obsessed with finding a parent figure who will take care of them.

Humiliated/Inferior Child. A subform of the Abandoned and Abused Child mode, in which patients experience humiliation and inferiority related to childhood experiences within and outside the family.

Dependent Child

Feels incapable and overwhelmed by adult responsibilities. Shows strong regressive tendencies and wants to be taken care of. Related to the lack of development of autonomy and self-reliance, often caused by authoritarian upbringing.


Angry Child*

Feels intensely angry, enraged, infuriated, frustrated or impatient, because the core emotional (or physical) needs of the vulnerable child are not being met. They vent their suppressed anger in inappropriate ways. May make demands that seem entitled or spoiled and that alienate others.

Enraged Child*

Experiences intense feelings of anger that result in hurting or damaging people or objects. The displayed anger is out of control, and has the goal of destroying the aggressor, sometimes literally. Has the affect of an enraged or uncontrollable child, screaming or acting out impulsively to an (alleged) perpetrator.

Lack of discipline

Impulsive Child*

Acts on non-core desires or impulses from moment to moment in a selfish or uncontrolled manner to get his or her own way, without regard to possible consequences for the self or others. Often has difficulty delaying short-time gratification and may appear ‘spoiled’.

Undisciplined Child*

Cannot force him/herself to finish routine or boring tasks, gets quickly frustrated and soon gives up.


Happy Child*

Feels at peace because core emotional needs are currently met. Feels loved, contented, connected, satisfied, fulfilled, protected, praised, worthwhile, nurtured, guided, understood, validated, self-confident, competent, appropriately autonomous or self-reliant, safe, resilient, strong, in control, adaptable, optimistic and spontaneous.

Maladaptive coping modes


Compliant Surrender*

Acts in a passive, subservient, submissive, reassurance-seeking, or self-deprecating way towards others out of fear of conflict or rejection. Passively allows him/herself to be mistreated, or does not take steps to get healthy needs met. Selects people or engages in other behaviour that directly maintains the self-defeating schema-driven pattern.


Detached Protector*

Withdraws psychologically from the pain of the schemas by emotionally detaching. The patient shuts off all emotions, disconnects from others and rejects their help, and functions in an almost robotic manner. Signs and symptoms include depersonalisation, emptiness, boredom, substance abuse, bingeing, self-mutilation, psychosomatic complaints and ‘blankness’.

Detached Self-Soother*

Shut off their emotions by engaging in activities that will somehow soothe, stimulate or distract them from feeling. These behaviours are usually undertaken in an addictive or compulsive way, and can include workaholism, gambling, dangerous sports, promiscuous sex, or drug abuse. Another group of patients compulsively engage in solitary interests that are more self-soothing than self-stimulating, such as playing computer games, overeating, watching television, or fantasising.

Angry Protector

Uses a ‘wall of anger’ to protect him/herself from others who are perceived as threatening and keeps others at a safe distance through displays of anger.



Behave in an entitled, competitive, grandiose, abusive, or status-seeking way in order to have whatever they want. They are almost completely self-absorbed, and show little empathy for the needs or feelings of others. They demonstrate superiority and expect to be treated as special and do not believe they should have to follow the rules that apply to everyone else. They crave for admiration and frequently brag or behave in a self-aggrandising manner to inflate their sense of self.


Attempts to protect him/herself from a perceived or real threat by focussing attention, ruminating, and exercising extreme control. Two subforms can be distinguished:

Perfectionistic Overcontroller. Focuses on perfectionism to attain control and prevent misfortune and criticism.

Suspicious Overcontroller. Focuses on vigilance, scanning other people for signs of malevolence, and controls others’ behaviour out of suspiciousness.

Bully and Attack*

Directly harms other people in a controlled and strategic way emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally, or through antisocial or criminal acts. The motivation may be to overcompensate for or prevent abuse or humiliation. Has sadistic properties.

Conning and Manipulative mode

Cons, lies, or manipulates in a manner designed to achieve a specific goal, which either involves victimising others or escaping punishment.

Predator mode

Focuses on eliminating a threat, rival, obstacle, or enemy in a cold, ruthless, and calculating manner.

Attention and Approval Seeker

Tries to get other people’s attention and approval by extravagant, inappropriate, and exaggerated behaviour. Usually compensates for underlying loneliness.

Maladaptive Parent modes

Punitive Parent*

This is the internalising voice of the parent, criticising and punishing the patient. They become angry with themselves and feel that they deserve punishment for having or showing normal needs that their parents did not allow them to express. The tone of this mode is harsh, critical, and unforgiving. Signs and symptoms include self-loathing, self-criticism, self-denial, self-mutilation, suicidal fantasies, and self-destructive behaviour.

Demanding/Critical Parent*

Continually pushes and pressures the child to meet excessively high standards. Feels that the ‘right’ way to be is to be perfect or achieve at a very high level, to keep everything in order, to strive for high status, to be humble, to put other needs before one’s own or to be efficient or avoid wasting time. The person feels that it is wrong to express feelings or to act spontaneously.

Healthy Adult mode*

This mode performs appropriate adult functions such as working, parenting, taking responsibility, and committing. Pursues pleasurable adult activities such as sex, intellectual, esthetical, and cultural interests, health maintenance, and athletic activities.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lobbestael, J., van Vreeswijk, M. & Arntz, A. Netherlands Journal of Psychology, 2007, number 3 Shedding light on schema modes: a clarification of the mode concept and its current research status. NEJP 63, 69–78 (2007).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: