Schemas in Counseling
By Sofia De La Garza, M.S., NCC, LPC-Intern
First, let’s discuss what a schema is:
sche·ma • /ˈskēmə/ • (noun)
In social science, mental structures that an individual uses to organize knowledge and guide cognitive processes and behavior. (Britannica.com, 2018)
Schemas provide a means for us to navigate the world around us. They allow us to expect the unexpected, plan, and react in the moment. Essentially, schemas are the roadmaps to our lives. As we acquire more life experience, our schemas develop into stronger ideas which allow us to better deal with life situations. Schemas can be viewed as the compartmentalizing of learned experience and our interpretation of learned experience in our minds. They allow us to be better informed should a particular situation arise.
The mind is a powerful tool in this manner. If schemas are our own personal way of interpreting the world then the mind is most definitely always at work. To this point, schemas are hard to break. As a counselor, I see schemas at work in session. I have a particular way of interpreting the world and so do my clients. It is my job to accommodate my schemas to my clients. A solution-focused approach is not always the best.
Content and process are essential in counseling. They are the vehicles that provide clients the space they deserve. As content is processed, schemas are gradually reshaped. It is difficult to let go of what we know to be true based on experience.
Through understanding and listening, we can achieve so much. After all, each of us operates on different schemas.