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Schema Therapy & The Body:How Physical Perceptions Can Be Looked at as an Entry Point to Work with Modes Part 1&2

by Serena Saccani, Irene Giardini


Body-centred therapy has its own history. In particular Gestalt Therapy practices an “on experience focused” and an “in the moment” approach. And it does so by observing what’s happening in the body; bodily awareness or consciousness so to speak. verbal language may be limited and limiting the process, as we do communicate our beliefs, thoughts and emotions also through nonverbal ways, such as gestures, postures, pace, tension or relaxation of our muscles, and other subtle somatic communications. The aim is not to produce a catharsis, but to gently move energy, liberate ideas and posture, creating awareness and bringing the client back in touch with his/her body. This way, the psychosomatic expression (physiological sensation such as pain) is not an “external” thing, or part of the body, but a representation of one’s “self” that is talking a non-verbal language.

The aim of add the body in Schema Therapy is: exploring the meaning of integration between Schema Therapy and physical psychotherapeutic approaches. Throughout a Schema Therapy session, bringing the attention to the body and to bodily and somatic sensations has multiple implications: a) allow to foster the emotional connection between therapist and client, b) enhances the connection of the therapeutic relationship by increasing the opportunities to bypass coping modes, focusing on the here and now of the clienttherapist dynamic, c) improve the client’s awareness about their own physical patterns which appear most often linked to the automatic activation of early maladaptive schemas, modes and behaviours.

Drawing the attention to the body leads to the access of important resource. Body language often communicates implicit meaning more clearly than words tying back to trauma and early relationships with the caregivers .
Schema Therapy techniques can be strengthened through the creation of a solid relational connection between therapist and clients: working with the body and through the body makes possible to bypass the patient's blocks and resistances, and specifically coping modes (detached protector, compliant surrendered, over-compensator), in order to explore the deepest and most painful emotions related to the client's vulnerable child mode.

By helping the client tune in to their body and feel the experienced feelings, it is possible to reactivate early maladaptive strategies and dysfunctional modes, yet in a protected environment, with the support of an emotionally present professional. This shift will gradually allow to modify assumptions and the dysfunctional acquired meanings associated.
The enablement of maladaptive schemas and dysfunctional modes through body activation helps working with clients with trauma, relational or not, occurred in pre-verbal age, when the clients were not able to express their needs in a verbal way.

By reliving those experiences through the body memories, the clients could become able to assign words to what has been “unspokable”.

Target Audience:

psychotherapist psychologist

Learning Objectives:

How to manage body and bodily sensations during individual sessions in Schema Therapy

Level of Experience Required:


About the Presenter:

Serena Saccani:

After receiving a Master’s Degree in Psychology in 2003 from the University of Parma (Italy), she specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Psychoterapy at Studi Cognitivi School in Milan in 2009.

Being interested in Personality Disorder Therapy, in 2012 Serena Saccani attended the Schema Therapy Training in Modena (Italy). She got her Certification as a Schema Therapy Therapist, Supervisor and Trainer from the Istituto di Scienze Cognitive (directed by Dr. Alessandro Carmelita).

After being supervised by Dr. Alessandro Carmelita, she is currently supervised by Dr. Joan Farrell.

Serena Saccani currently works at the Schema Therapy Center of Parma (Italy), where she is a Consultant for the treatment of psychological issues, for individuals and couples therapy, and group therapy.

Irene Giardini:

I'm a Schema Therapy psychoterapist and Supervisor/Trainer IIST and SIST (Italian Society of Schema Therapy). I’m a SIST Executive Committee Member.

I work especially with individual clients but I'm interested also in couples Schema Therapy. I do Schema Therapy since 2012 in my practice, in Bologna, in the Schena Therapy Center Italy.

Before Schema Therapy I was a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, now I’m in training in Sensorymotor Psychoterapy and in AEDP.

I am specializing in the treatment of trauma with Kathy Steel, Janina Fosher, Roger Solomon and I am trained in Ego State Therapy with Robin Shapiro.

Why Schema Therapy?

Schema therapy has been extensively researched to effectively treat a wide variety of typically treatment resistant conditions, including Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Read our summary of the latest research comparing the dramatic results of schema therapy compared to other standard models of psychotherapy.

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