The concept of a Schema Mode is probably the most difficult part of schema theory to explain, because it encompasses many elements.
As we mentioned on an earlier page , schema modes are the moment-to-moment emotional states and coping responses that we all experience. Often our schema modes are triggered by life situations that we are oversensitive to (our "emotional buttons").
At any given point in time, some of our schemas, coping responses, and emotional states are inactive, or dormant, while others have become activated by life events and predominate our current mood and behavior. The predominant state that we are in at a given point in time is called our schema mode. All of us flip from mode to mode over time.
Here is our formal definition: a schema mode represents "those schemas, coping responses, or healthy behaviors that are currently active for an individual". A schema mode is activated when particular schemas or coping responses have erupted into strong emotions or rigid coping styles that take over and control an individual's functioning.
An individual may shift from one schema mode into another; as that shift occurs, different schemas or coping responses, previously dormant, become active.
Modes As Dissociated States
Viewed in a slightly different way, a schema mode is: a facet of the self, involving specific schemas or coping responses, that has not been fully integrated with other facets. According to this perspective, schema modes can be characterized by the degree to which a particular schema mode state has become dissociated, or cut off, from an individual's other modes. A schema mode, therefore, is a part of the self that is cut off, to some degree, from other aspects of the self.
The term Dissociative Identity Disorder (or Multiple Personality Disorder) is used to describe individuals who flip into schema modes that are at the extreme end of the dissociative spectrum. Patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder usually have different names (like John, Susan, or Danny) for each schema mode.
At the other extreme of dissociation -- the mildest form of a schema mode -- is a normal mood shift, such as a lonely mood or an angry mood.
We have currently identified 10 schema modes. The modes are grouped into four general categories: the Child modes, the Maladaptive Coping modes, the Maladaptive Parent modes, and the Healthy Adult mode. Some modes are healthy for an individual, while others are maladaptive.
One important goal of Schema Therapy is to teach patients how to strengthen their Healthy Adult mode, so that they can learn to navigate, negotiate with, nurture, or neutralize their other modes.
To see a listing of schema modes, click on the link to the right.
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