Schema therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that draws on cognitive-behavioural, psychodynamic, and experiential techniques to help clients identify and change negative thinking patterns, feelings, and behaviour.
Empathic confrontation is a technique used in schema therapy to help clients challenge and modify negative patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaviour. The term “confrontation” can be misleading, as it does not involve being confrontational or aggressive towards the client. Instead, the therapist uses empathic confrontation as a way of empathizing with the client’s struggles while also challenging their negative schemas and behaviours.
In empathic confrontation, the therapist listens to the client’s concerns and experiences and then reflects those experiences back to the client in a non-judgmental and empathic way. The therapist may also point out inconsistencies or discrepancies in the client’s thinking, or challenge negative beliefs or behaviours that are keeping the client stuck.
For example, suppose a client with an abandonment schema is avoiding close relationships out of fear of abandonment. In that case, the therapist may use empathic confrontation to help the client recognize the impact of this avoidance on their life and relationships. The therapist might say, “I can see how hard it is for you to trust others and let people get close to you. But I also see how this avoidance keeps you isolated and prevents you from experiencing the love and connection you crave.”
The goal of empathic confrontation is to help clients recognize how their schemas impact their lives and relationships while providing support and validation. By empathizing with the client’s struggles while challenging their negative patterns, the therapist can help them develop new coping strategies and modify their schemas more positively and adaptively.