Ms. Limor Navot is a Psychologist and an accredited Advanced Schema Therapist. She specializes in treatment for childhood trauma, severe personality disorders, and externalizing problems involving anger and aggression. She also has extensive experience in providing risk assessment, diagnosis, and treatment for violent offenders. Today she works as the Head of Treatment in an in-patient clinic in the Netherlands (U-center), specializing in treatment for trauma and addiction. She also has a part-time private practice. Aside from her clinical work, Ms. Navot is the current Training Director of SafePath Institute, where she provides training and supervision for mental health teams and institutions around the world.
When a ‘Moral Vacuum’ Enters the Therapy Room: Training our professional Healthy Adult to reflect rather than react
As humans, we are born with the capacity to feel ‘moral emotions’, such as shame, guilt, and remorse. They help us function in society, inhibit ourselves, and repair and maintain relationships. As Schema Therapists, we tend to look at pathological shame or inappropriate self-blame as part of the person’s Inner Critic modes, and have a large toolbox aimed at reducing those experiences. However, we are much less trained to deal with their ABSENCE. We refer to those moments – where an expected sense of genuine shame or guilt is lacking – as a ‘moral vacuum’ (Navot & Bernstein, 2023). The obvious example is when a patient is talking about somebody getting hurt, while not showing any signs of regret (e.g., common in Antisocial and Narcissistic personality disorders). However, other ‘moral vacuums’ can be much harder to detect. For example, when a patient becomes demanding or demeaning in a very subtle way, or when the patient is taking a very passive role in the therapy. In those moments, as human beings, our modes tend to jump in and fill the ‘moral void’ without our awareness. Therapists may quickly shift into blaming themselves for doing something wrong. Sometimes they may unconsciously join the client in blaming others, or feel highly judgmental, resentful, or reject the client. How can we train our healthy adults to identify and reflect on those moments? How can we increase our strengths in order not to fall in the trap of filling the ‘moral void’? In this presentation, we will provide tools for recognizing different kinds of ‘moral vacuums’ and connecting them to different modes. We will then explore ways to increase therapists’ healthy capacities and resilience so they can choose their interventions wisely in those moments.
Coping Modes in Disguise: Working with ‘Pseudo Vulnerability’.
Co-Presented with Susan Simpso
One of the superpowers of schema therapy is reparenting. It is the depth of warmth, nurturance, and attunement we provide that helps heal our client’s schemas. But what happens when we unwittingly fall into the trap of reparenting a coping mode?
Some coping modes can present a ‘false’ presentation of vulnerability. They can elicit powerful countertransference dynamics within us and the teams we work with. We can find ourselves with long-term clients who seem stuck, without any real work happening, and with no end point in sight. Other signs may include guilt feelings, an urge to find solutions, to work harder, or to ‘rescue’ our clients from their suffering and despair.
These modes do not want to be challenged and are very powerful in disarming us from using empathic confrontation techniques. We may find ourselves tip-toeing around due to fears that the client is too fragile or that we are harming them. In this skills class, we will learn how to tell the difference between genuine child modes and pseudo vulnerability modes (among which, Complaining Protector, Attention/recognition seeking, Self-pity/victim, and a new mode: Helpless Surrenderer).
We will demonstrate the