For sufferers of borderline personality disorder (BPD), understanding more about their disorder may be enough to make it better. A new study has found that BPD patients responded well to a program of psychoeducation, a therapeutic approach that aims to help patients learn about their illnesses and the effects that the illness has on their lives. The findings could be especially beneficial for borderline personality disorder sufferers who live in communities underserved by more traditional mental health providers.
A Different Approach to Therapy
In psychoeducational group therapy programs, participants with similar diagnoses are brought together for sessions run by a leader who presents educational content about their disorder. The goal of the program is to teach participants about the effects of the disorder and help them build coping skills. The group setting surrounds participants with peers who are suffering from the same disorder, and group discussions are usually encouraged.
The advantage of psychoeducational programs is that they’re often feasible even in communities where there is a lack of traditional mental health services. Sessions are often run by mental health professionals, but they may also be led by peers or other community members. Programs are relatively short, and the group setting lowers expenses. All this can make the programs more accessible where resources are scarce.
Psychoeducation has shown to be effective in treating substance abuse. The approach has also been applied to a wide range of mental illnesses and disorders, including depression, social anxiety, and phobias.
BPD Responds to Psychoeducation
In a new study just published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a group of Italian researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a psychoeducational program for a group of borderline personality disorder patients. The study gathered a group of 96 patients with a borderline personality disorder diagnosis, and 48 of the participants were given a six-session course of psychoeducational group therapy. The other 48 participants were put on a “waitlist” and didn’t receive the therapy. All of the participants received standard, non-intensive treatment for BPD.
Before the therapy began, participants were assessed on a scale that measured the severity of their borderline personality disorder characteristics. They were assessed again at the end of the therapy program, and yet again two months after the conclusion of the therapy.
The results of the study were dramatic. The participants in the psychoeducation group saw improvement in all areas of the borderline personality disorder assessment, and in most BPD traits, the improvement was greater than that in the control group. Almost half of the psychoeducation group showed substantial improvement in their borderline personality disorder traits (as defined by at least a 50% improvement in their assessment score compared to their baseline assessment). Only 6% of those in the control group showed such marked progress. The improvement remained consistent even at the two-month mark after the end of the program.
New Opportunities for Underserved Communities
The Italian study specifically targeted participants from underserved communities in an attempt to see if psychoeducation is a good alternative where traditional therapies are unavailable. The results are good news for borderline personality disorder patients who are unable to afford individual therapy or who live in places where qualified therapists are in short supply.