By a schema is meant a typical pattern of feelings, thoughts, and sensations that govern behavior. These patterns are learned in childhood. Schemas serve to satisfy a person's most important psychological needs (basic needs), such as the need for secure attachments or satisfying relationships, or the need for autonomy. If the basic needs were frequently not satisfied in childhood, unfavorable schemas can develop. In the long term, they have a negative effect on the life of the person concerned and on his relationships with other people.
In schema therapy, the aim is to make the person aware of the unfavorable patterns of experience and behavior that have developed in the course of his or her life history and to change them in such a way that the person concerned can better regulate his or her feelings and behavior and satisfy his or her needs in a more favorable way. This also reduces psychological stress and psychological symptoms in the long term.