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PCP and cognitive schema
The cognitive schema is a linchpin of the cognitive method, since it is a device that explains much of the maladaptive cognitive armoury such as distortion, selective attention, overgeneralization and persistence of incoherent thought. Beck's self-schemas and Kelly's self-constructs may refer to the same processes of self-construction. But in practice schemas are more abstract, serving as explanatory rather than descriptive concepts.
Kelly proposes that the self is not an entity but a realm of relationships with significant others; the self, then, is embedded in a network of interpersonal exchanges that locate it in the world. this network idea is dissimilar to Beck's (1976,1996) notion of the self as a "schema", which he sees not as bipolar but as categorical. According to Beck, individuals who have a well-developed schema can easily process information about the self. Fixed notions of self arise when the more frequently used schemata become less flexible and more rigid. All cognitive theories accord schema of the self a great deal of importance. Some cognitive therapists (e.g., Safran, 1990) have challenged the static nature of schemas further and put forward the view that they act basically as a program for maintaining relatedness in the world. A key point in Safran's model is that schemas are constituted through "loops" which become self-fulfilling and closed, because of a person's style of relating. Kelly, much earlier had referred to this as the self-fulfilling experience cycle.
But there is a crucial difference between Kelly and Safran in that the latter does not consider the profile of assumptions (schemas) of the observer or therapist, and there is a tendency in his approach to assume that the therapist can interpret the client's behavior without imposing meaning.  
  • Beck, A.T. (1976) Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press
  • Beck, A.T. (1996) Beyond belief: A theory of modes, personality and psychopathology. In Salkovskis, P.M. (ed)  Frontiers of cognitive therapy. New York: Guildford Press
  • Safran, J.D. (1990) Towards a refinement of cognitive therapy in the light of interpersonnal theory. 1.Theory. 11. Practice. Clinical Psychology Review, 10, 87-121.
Kieron O'Connor
Establ. 2003
Last update: 29 December 2003