In psychology, it is believed that in order to overcome a psychological problem at its roots, it is not enough to cancel the discomfort for which the person has decided to go to therapy. But it must also intervene in the way of thinking and the way that the patient has to interpret the reality that surrounds him. If it is not done that way, the problem will likely reappear sooner or later. That is why the main objective of psychological therapy is not to suppress the symptom, but rather, to modify all the psychological processes that keep it afloat. And thus avoid that these interfere in the quality of life of the patient. To achieve this, it is necessary to adopt measures to be able to change the cognitive schemes of the person.

What are cognitive schemas ?

It begins by defining the concept of cognitive schema. Which is important in all the science of psychology in general and in cognitive and cognitive-behavioral therapies.

It is a set of concepts that are interconnected with each other. And consolidated in the way a person’s brain works. They shape a way of thinking and interpreting reality.

That is the set of ideas and beliefs from which the person concludes what happens in himself and around him. It will act as the glasses that create a frame to interpret and organize the information to which we are exposed.

And this information can be very varied, both referring to nature and applied to society or even to oneself. Depending on which cognitive schemes we have, we generate one self-concept or another. Also a political ideology or another. One philosophy of life or another.

It is important to note that it is impossible to think outside of cognitive schemata. From the moment we can think through more or less abstract and complex concepts, we establish various cognitive schemes that shape reality. That does not mean that we are lying to ourselves, nor is it that our perspective on things is biased in a problematic way.

It is simply a consequence that we cannot know everything at all times. Cognitive schemes allow us to be functional even though the information we have is limited.

There are indeed cognitive schemes more problematic than others. But, it is possible to identify these problems and modify our cognitive schemes. This is often one of the goals of psychotherapy.

How can I change a cognitive schema in psychotherapy?

  1. Cognitive restructuring to modify cognitive schemas.

    Cognitive restructuring is based on dialogue and reflection. It consists of asking a series of key questions that lead the person to question certain beliefs that they have been clinging to and that turn out to be problematic and poorly adjusted to reality.

    That is, you do not confront the person about those beliefs. Rather, you are left to wonder how realistic and appropriate those ideas are.

  2. Self-knowledge exercises.

    Self-knowledge exercises help the person detect the most important concepts in their way of thinking, and understand to what extent they affect them.

    This helps to make progress in the tasks of substitution of cognitive schemes when some dysfunctional elements are detected in the way of reasoning or interpreting reality. For example, keeping a journal is one of those useful exercises.

  3. Empathy exercises.

    Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes helps to see to what extent the same event can be interpreted in many ways. For this reason, certain exercises used in therapy consist of the patient adopting a role imitating someone who thinks very differently from himself.

  4. Support in the search for new concepts.

    It is not enough to detect problems in existing cognitive schemas. You have to give them an alternative. For this reason, in therapy patients are accompanied when asking the appropriate questions and shuffling other appropriate interpretations, taking into account the values, the way of being, and knowledge.

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