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How to Reinvent Your Life and Flourish in 2022

Unlock your unique "lifetrap combination code."

Key points

  • Everyone has a particular combination or profile of "schemas" that determines their unique behavioural patterns.
  • One's schema code or profile is somewhat akin to their DNA, but it’s much easier to change or reconfigure.
  • A schema profile provides a useful map to navigate the journey of psychotherapy.
  • For this task, it is essential to find an experienced psychotherapist with whom to establish a strong therapeutic alliance.
Unlock your unique lifetrap combination code
Source: iStock Credit: maxkabakov

In my previous post—"Do You Feel Trapped or Boxed In?"—I briefly introduced Schema Therapy (ST) by explaining schemas, or lifetraps, highlighting the steps to change them and the benefits of doing so.

In this post, I go a bit deeper by explaining what your unique schema profile (or combination code of lifetraps) is and how it can be identified and used effectively in psychotherapy.

Your Unique Schema Combination Code or Profile: A DNA Equivalent?

As also mentioned in my previous post, there are 18 maladaptive schemas in total. This means that we all have them. However, we each have them with different intensities for every schema. This also means that everyone has a unique combination of schemas or a profile that determines their unique patterns of behavior.

Your schema combination code is somewhat equivalent to your actual fingerprint or your DNA fingerprint—something you are born with and that is unique to you. The big difference is that you are not born with your schemas—you acquire them during childhood and they can be changed. But first, they need to be identified.

How to Identify Your Unique Schema Profile

In a similar way that some experts can conduct DNA fingerprinting—the chemical test that shows your genetic makeup—some psychologists are able to measure and assess your schemas by producing your unique schema profile. This can be done by administering The Young Schema Questionnaire 3 Short Form (YSQ-S3).

The YSQ-S3 is the short version of the longer 232-item YSQ (Long Form-3). The YSQ-S3 comprises 18 scales and 90 items (5 items per scale). Each item is rated on a 6-point scale (1 = completely untrue of me; 6 = describes me perfectly). Higher scores indicate higher levels of early maladaptive schemas (EMS). Your YSQ-S3 scores are then used to produce your unique profile.

Interpretation of Your Profile

Once your unique profile has been produced, it needs to be interpreted. This means extracting and understanding the relevant information that highlights the relationships between your schemas, or lifetraps. This is critically important for the following six reasons:

  1. First, your schemas don’t work independently or in isolation. In fact, when combined, they have a synergistic effect. That is, the impact that your schemas produce in your life by interacting together is greater than the cumulative effect of those schemas individually.
  2. Second, your profile needs to be debriefed and validated with you. This means making sure that the information conveyed in your profile accurately represents the themes and relationships in your life, and resonates with you in a way that is meaningful to you.
  3. Third, your profile also becomes a useful tool to connect, unpack, understand, and reframe (change the interpretation and meaning of) your life events—particularly any traumatic events or negative experiences.
  4. Next, your profile also becomes a useful device to identify your unrecognised assets and strengths. In my work as a psychotherapist, I find that most clients are very good at being self-critical (even self-loathing) and having a strong focus on the negative aspects of their lives—while minimising or neglecting the positive or optimistic aspects. In fact, this is the essence of the "pessimism" schema. However, they are not as good at identifying, recognising, or taking ownership of, their own efforts and contributions in overcoming their life struggles. Their resilience and perseverance are some of the most common attributes. Overall, this step enables you to generate a more realistic and useful narrative of your life to build your self-esteem and move confidently into the future to realise your life goals.
  5. Further, your profile needs to be translated and a strategy or useful map created to understand and navigate your psychotherapy landscape and journey. This includes setting or redefining your therapy goals.
  6. Finally, your initial profile becomes a baseline or reference point against which to compare with a progress post-measure in the psychotherapy. This means completing the YSQ-S3 questionnaire for a second time after a certain period of undergoing therapy, in order to detect any changes in your profile over time.

It is important to remember here that psychotherapy doesn’t necessarily intend to completely eradicate your schemas, but rather to—at least—reduce them to a much more manageable level, so they no longer distort or exaggerate your life experiences, and/or you know what to do when they become activated.

As you can imagine, producing and interpreting your schema profile effectively requires working with someone who is well-experienced, with the craftsmanship to make the above possible. Equally important, it requires engaging in a highly collaborative approach with your psychotherapist—hence the importance of the so-called "therapeutic alliance."

The Therapeutic Alliance

The "therapeutic alliance" or "therapeutic relationship" relates to how you and your psychotherapist work together (that is, how you both connect, behave, and engage with each other). In short, the therapeutic alliance has three key components:

  1. The bond between therapist and client.
  2. Agreement on therapeutic goals.
  3. Agreement about the tasks of psychotherapy.

Are you ready to crack your code?

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


Bordin, E. S. (1979). The generalizability of the psychoanalytic concept of the working alliance. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 16(3), 252–260.

Young, J. E., & Brown, G. (2005). Young Schema Questionnaire-Short Form; Version 3 (YSQ-S3, YSQ) [Database record]. APA PsycTests.

Young, J. E., & Klosko, J. S. (1994). Reinventing your life: The breakthrough program to end negative behavior and feel great again. Penguin.

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