An intensive form of talk therapy, known as transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP), can help individuals affected with borderline personality disorder (BPD) by reducing symptoms and improving their social functioning, according to an article in the June issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, a premier psychiatry journal.
BPD, a chronic and disabling condition affecting about 1% of the United States population, has long defied psychologists and psychiatrists seeking to treat the illness. Affecting day-to-day functions, symptoms of the illness include unstable relations with others, pervasive mood instability, chaotic variation in self-image, self-destructive behavior, impulsive behaviors (such as sexual promiscuity, substance abuse, or gambling), and intense, uncontrolled rages.
In the new study, Mark F. Lenzenweger, distinguished professor of psychology at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and colleagues at the Weill College of Medicine, Cornell University, examined three treatments applied to carefully diagnosed BPD patients for a period of one year.
The treatments included dialectical behavior therapy, supportive psychotherapy, and TFP, a specialized psychodynamic form of talk therapy, pioneered by Otto F. Kernberg, a study co-author and professor of psychiatry at Weill-Cornell, that focuses on dominant emotionally charged themes that emerge in the relationship between patient and therapist.
As the patients moved through the yearlong treatments, they were carefully assessed on a wide range of psychiatric symptom and functioning domains, such as depression, anger, social functioning, suicidal behaviors, impulsivity, social adjustment, and various forms of irritability and aggression.
At the end of the year of treatment, a detailed examination of the change revealed that the BPD patients in the TFP treatment showed improvement in ten out of the twelve domains studied.