Psychotherapy is considered to be the most important and effective component of treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). While medications and other forms of treatment can be helpful in alleviating some of the symptoms of BPD, psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder is the most effective way to significantly reduce symptoms.
What Is Psychotherapy for BPD?
Psychotherapy is sometimes called “talk therapy,” but it often involves much more than talking and can take so many forms that it is difficult to find a succinct definition. Generally, psychotherapy involves a series of techniques, delivered in the context of a relationship between a therapist and a patient, aimed at reducing psychological distress.
Many people wonder what exactly happens in psychotherapy sessions, but again, there are so many variations of psychotherapy that this can be hard to pin down. Sometimes psychotherapy does involve just talking with your therapist, but sometimes it involves doing exercises in session, learning skills in a classroom-like setting, interacting with other people with similar problems, and doing homework.
Types of Psychotherapy for BPDThere are four major types of psychotherapy for BPD. Each of the therapies listed below have empirical support -- research has demonstrated that they significantly reduce BPD symptoms. While other forms of psychotherapy for BPD exist, not all have been tested as rigorously as these four:
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT for BPD focuses on teaching skills to tolerate distress, stabilize emotions, and maintain healthier relationships.
Transference-Focused Psychotherapy. Transference-focused psychotherapy uses elements of the relationship between the client and the therapist to help reduce BPD symptoms.
Mentalization-Based Psychotherapy. Mentalization based therapy for BPD focuses on helping the client to recognize mental states, such as thoughts, feelings, and wishes, in themselves and in others.
Schema-Focused Psychotherapy. Schema-focused therapy for BPD focuses on confronting maladaptive beliefs that are developed as a result of early life events.
How to Find Psychotherapy for BPD
If you are interested in finding a psychotherapist with specialty training in BPD, you will need to do some detective work. They aren't impossible to find, but you need to know where to look. For more on how to find a BPD therapist, see these articles:
American Psychiatric Association. "Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder." American Journal of Psychiatry, 158: 1-52, October 2001.