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Erwin Bijlsma

Erwin Bijlsma

  • Strengths Based Schema Therapy (SBST): A new, short-term therapy that rapidly mobilizes the Healthy Adult mode

    Co-presented with David Bernstein

    Schema Therapy is remarkably effective for a broad range of personality disorders (PDs). However, it requires a substantial commitment of time, usually one to three years or more, depending on the severity of the case. In clinical practice, there are quite a few patients with less severe personality and behavior problems who could benefit from shorter-term forms of Schema Therapy. In this workshop, we introduce Strengths-Based Schema Therapy (SBST), a 12-session manualized therapy plus 4 optional booster sessions, that rapidly mobilizes patients’ Healthy Adult mode. It incorporates positive psychology, mindfulness, and experiential techniques to help patients become aware of their dysfunctional modes, and utilize their strengths to get their emotional needs met. The therapy is intended for patients with mild to moderate PDs or traits, along with mood, relationship, or adjustment problems. It was developed by Dr. David Bernstein and piloted with 15 patients at 4mb (“For mind and behavior”), an ambulant treatment center in the Netherlands directed by Mr. Erwin Bijlsma. In a pilot study of N = 3 patients with mild to moderate personality disorders, all three patients showed positive reliable change in early maladaptive schemas, modes, symptom distress, coping, and strengths. SBST uses the visual metaphor of a sailboat, the “Healthy Adult Boat,” based on a concept by Hugo Albert (Albert, 2018, Bernstein et al., 2021), to represent the Healthy Adult on its life’s voyage. The therapy consists of 4 phases: 1) assessment (“Where are you in your life’s voyage?”), 2) problem definition and analysis, and mindful awareness (“Setting your course, experiencing the voyage”), 3) Creating Healthy Adult messages for maladaptive modes (“Braving the stormy seas”), and 4) Building strengths to meet emotional needs (“Coming to Strengths Island”). We incorporate the iModes image-based therapy tools throughout the therapy. In this workshop, we will use case examples, demonstrations, and exercises to show how this strengths focused approach can rapidly mobilize patients to recognize unhealthy patterns, improve coping and symptoms, and get emotional needs met more adequately.

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