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Psychiatry. 1993 Aug;56(3):254-63; discussion 264-9.

Studying the treatment contract in intensive psychotherapy with borderline patients.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, White Plains 10605.


A pilot study on the process of psychodynamic psychotherapy of borderline personality disorder at the Cornell University Medical College is designed to investigate the teaching and application of a specific model of treatment for borderline patients (Clarkin et al. 1992; Kernberg and Clarkin 1992). The project has involved teaching a group of self-selected trainees and faculty the manualized therapy (Kernberg et al. 1989); taping each of the twice-weekly therapy sessions over a period of 2 years; and rating (1) each therapist's adherence to the manual (Koenigsberg et al. 1985), (2) each therapist's skill, and (3) patient change. The patients are women with borderline personality disorder, between 20 and 40 years of age, diagnosed by DSM-III-R criteria (American Psychiatric Association 1987), SCID-II (Spitzer et al. 1987), and a self-report questionnaire for level of personality organization. At regular intervals, the patients are evaluated for symptom status, change in BPD criteria, and functioning. The therapists are evaluated for adherence to the manual and level of therapeutic skill. In teaching and carrying out the manualized therapy, it became clear that a critical moment in the treatment was the setting up of the treatment contract. A study was organized to look systematically at the adherence of the therapists to the model of treatment with regard to this initial phase of the therapy.

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