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Core Beliefs and Schemas: How to assess them, and how to modify them

Cory Newman

30 Apr 2024


“Core beliefs” are the implicit views that people hold about themselves, others, the world, life itself, and the future. Formed on the basis of personal experience, modeling from important others (e.g., primary caregivers), and social influence at large, core beliefs shape the way we process information and affect our perceived quality of life. In therapy, many of our patients demonstrate problematic core beliefs that are manifested as negative biases against themselves, serious doubts about the utility of trying to change (helplessness), and bleak, limited views of their future (hopelessness). The “deepest” and most impactful of the core beliefs are known as “early maladaptive schemas” or simply “schemas” for short. For example, patients who manifest schemas such as mistrust, vulnerability to harm, unrelenting standards, defectiveness (and others, particularly if they are maintained to a severe degree), will not change their views spontaneously or easily, and will pose challenges, including in the therapeutic relationship. CBT is most effective and has the most staying power when therapists help their patients learn to moderate and modify their dysfunctional core beliefs and schemas, and to live their lives in concordance with the positively changed beliefs.

The event will be equivalent to 2 hrs of CPD.


Modifying core beliefs and schemas requires a collaborative therapeutic relationship, a well-formulated, data-driven case conceptualization, the repeated use of a range of cognitive, behavioural, emotional (and also interpersonal) interventions, and a healthy dose of patience and persistence from both therapist and patient. This workshop will summarize the ways that therapists hypothesize and further assess their patients’ core beliefs and schemas, such as via open-ended questioning, and the use of well-established inventories. Additionally, we will highlight the place that core beliefs and schemas occupy in case conceptualization. This workshop will include clear descriptions of how therapists provide their patients with psychoeducation about core beliefs and schemas, thus setting the stage for therapeutic collaboration in identifying the core beliefs and schemas that are targets for intervention. Clinical vignettes will be presented to illustrate the process of respectfully validating the patients’ core beliefs and schemas to a limited extent in light of their developmental history and other background variables (including cultural factors). These same vignettes will further describe the ways that therapists help patients to give consideration to a wider range of ways of thinking – in other words, to be more flexible in their thinking, more open to new information that serves as evidence against core beliefs and schemas, and more motivated to pursue therapeutic goals that will support a more diverse and functional set of beliefs about themselves, their lives, and their future. Interventions will range from standard methods of verbal and written rational responding, to experiential methods such as role-playing and guided imagery, to behavioural experiments as part of homework, to focusing on the therapeutic relationship for improved interpersonal beliefs and schemas.

Learning Objectives

1. Ascertain thematic patterns in clients’ thinking styles to identify core beliefs or schemas.
2. Provide corrective experiences in the therapeutic relationship to counteract clients’ schemas regarding mistrust, abandonment, subjugation, and other interpersonally based beliefs.
3. Teach clients to use methods of rational responding, evidence-gathering, and hypothesis-testing (including homework) to reassess their core beliefs or schemas with a “healthy skepticism.”
4. Enact in-session experiential interventions such as guided imagery and role-playing that provoke visceral, emotional learning opportunities strong enough for patients to formulate new, revised beliefs that are more therapeutic.

Training Modalities

Didactic presentation with slides.
Vignettes that illustrate the clinical methods being described.
Q & A.

Key References

Arntz, A. (2018). Modifying core beliefs. In S. C. Hayes & S. G. Hofmann (Eds.), Process-based CBT: The science and core clinical competencies of cognitive behavioral therapy (pp. 339-350). Context Press.

Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond. Guilford Press.

Binnie, J. (2012). Using cognitive behavioural therapy with complex cases: Using the therapeutic relationship to change core beliefs. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 33, 480-485.

Newman, C. F. (2015). Cognitive restructuring/cognitive therapy. In A. M. Nezu & C. M. Nezu (Eds.), Oxford handbook of cognitive and behavioral therapies (pp. 118-141). Oxford University Press.

Young, J. E., Klosko, J. S., & Weishaar, M. E. (2003). Schema therapy: A practitioner’s guide. Guilford Press.

About the presenter

Cory F. Newman, Ph.D. is Director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy, Professor of Psychology, in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), and Adjunct Faculty at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Prof. Newman did his postdoctoral training under the mentorship of Prof. Aaron T. Beck, and he is a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. Prof. Newman has maintained a full clinical caseload and has extensive experience as a CBT supervisor, having supervised over 350 professionals-in-training, both at the University of Pennsylvania, and through the Beck Institute’s international training programs. Prof. Newman was recognized by the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy with the Outstanding Clinician Award for 2019. Prof. Newman is an international lecturer, having presented approximately 300 cognitive-behavioural therapy workshops and seminars at home in the U.S. as well as in twenty-three other countries. Prof. Newman is author of over 100 articles and chapters on cognitive-behavioural therapy for a wide range of disorders and clinical issues, and he has authored or co-authored six books, including two with Prof. Aaron T. Beck. On the side, Prof. Newman is an avid classical pianist.

Who should attend

This presentation is suitable for mental health practitioners across disciplines and substance use counsellors. Therapists who practice standard-course CBT will benefit from this presentation, as will clinicians of all levels of experience.

Low Intensity clinical contact hours survey - BABCP Low Intensity Special Interest Group

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The BACP Low Intensity SIG are interested in the impact of clinical contact hours on Low Intensity/Wellbeing Practitioner wellbeing. This questionnaire contains six multi-choice questions and a free text box for you to share your experiences. The answers to these questions will help the BABCP SIG plan how to meet CPD topics and other developments within the SIG.  The SIG hope to produce a write up of the answers to this questionnaire to be shared with SIG members and to be used in training.

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This FREE conference is for Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners working in Talking Therapies for Anxiety and Depression services and is brought to you by Bespoke Mental Health in collaboration with the NHS England Talking Therapies National PWP Leads Network

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