Schema therapy is an integrative extension of cognitive therapy fusing elements of cognitivebehavioral, psychodynamic, and gestalt approaches. (So, okay, it’s also in your heart and body as well as in your head.)

Schemas are patterns we impose on reality to help us explain our experience, to mediate our perception, and to guide our responses. In other words schemas act as maps to help us gather and interpret information and solve problems.

Some schemas are adaptive and some are maladaptive. To the extent that our schemas accurately represent reality, they clarify our vision and are useful and self-serving. If our schemas are out of date, they distort our information processing and end up being self-defeating.

At least 18 maladaptive schemas have been recognized. We’ll see what they are and consider which ones might underlie Enneagram styles. We’ll employ an exercise to discover where our maladaptive schemas may have originated from and how we still use them today.

We develop schemas during childhood and then sift events through them throughout our life. Since we accept these schemas without question, they become self-perpetuating and are very resistant to change.

Schemas ensure their survival through three processes of schema surrender, schema avoidance, and schema compensation. We maintain our schemas by exaggerating information that confirms them and by minimizing data that contradict them. We cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally avoid triggering our schemas to escape the negative emotions they stir up. We compensate for these schemas by doing the opposite of what they suggest so we can evade triggering the pain they cause.

We’ll look at how these processes operate in the nine Enneagram styles and figure out how to abate them so we can upgrade or update our maps.

This workshop will involve input, personal reflection, small group sharing, and large group feedback.


1. Participants will learn about 18 maladaptive schemas.

2. Participants will be able to demonstrate how schemas are formed and operate.

3. Participants will understand the three perpetuating mechanisms of schemas: schema surrender, schema avoidance, and schema compensation.

4. Participants will experience where some of their maladaptive schemas originated from and how they continue to use them in the present.

5. Participants will have some techniques for modifying their schemas.

Jerry Wagner, Ph.D. is the author of the Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles: an Introductory Guide; the Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales (WEPSS); and Two Windows on the Self: the Enneagram and the Myers-Briggs. Jerry has been researching and teaching the Enneagram for over 30 years and has offered the Enneagram Spectrum Training and Certification Program nationally and internationally for the past 10 years: www.enneagramspectrum.com. Jerry is a faculty member of the Department of Psychology and the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, Chicago. He is a clinical psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Evanston, IL) .

Jerry Wagner


2008 IEA Global Conference

Atlanta, Georgia, USA