Dialectical behaviour therapists' experience of young people with features of borderline personality disorder : a qualitative analysis

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    Research areas

  • PhD, School of Psychology


This thesis examines mental health professionals’ responses toward patients diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and presents a qualitative study of Dialectical Behaviour Therapists’ (DBT) experiences in their work with young people with BPD features.A review of empirical literature regarding emotional, behavioural and attitudinal responses ofprofessionals toward these patients identified a range of negative responses,distinguishable from responses toward patients with other mental health problems.The review highlights the consistency of responses in professionals working in a variety of roles with these patients in countries across the world, and points to the need for further research to understand the precipitants of these negative responses. Controversy surrounds the diagnosis of BPD during adolescence and hence the majority of research in this area focuses upon professionals working with adult patients. On the basis of evidence regarding the presence of BPD features during adolescence and the application of therapeutic approaches, such as DBT, to young people exhibiting these features, the empirical paper presents an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of the lived experience of DBT therapists in this context. Asuper-ordinate theme of ‘the impact of the therapy on the therapist’containing five sub-themesis presented. The emotional responses of the DBT therapists are interpreted as consistent with the literature regarding professionals working with adults with BPD.The findings are also
7interpreted in relation to an apparent resonance between the therapists’ experiences and that of their patients. This finding is considered from two theoreticalperspectives. The third paper considers potential implications of these perspectives in relation to clinical practice. It is argued that the therapists’ responses toward these patients may be set within a discourse of normality rather than pathology and that the discourse adopted will have a bearing on the mechanisms of support provided to professionals in clinical practice.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award dateJan 2012