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Behav Res Ther. 1994 May;32(4):419-30.

Treatment of borderline personality disorder: a challenge for cognitive-behavioural therapy.

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Department of Medical Psychology, University of Limburg, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Patients with so-called Borderline Personality Disorder are generally considered as extremely difficult to treat. Until recently, conceptualizations of this severe disorder on which cognitive-behavioural therapy could be based were underdeveloped. The present paper presents a cognitive formulation based on previous cognitive and behavioural conceptualizations, and on empirical evidence pertaining to the relationship between childhood traumas and Borderline Personality Disorder. It is assumed that chronic traumatic abuse or neglect in childhood has led to the development of almost unshakeable fundamental assumptions about others (dangerous and malignant), about one's own capabilities (powerless and vulnerable) and upon one's value as a person (bad and unacceptable). These are assumed to underlie the complex symptomatic presentation of borderline patients. A treatment protocol is described, which takes 1.5-4 years, and consists of 5 stages: (1) construction of a working relationship; (2) symptom-management (gaining more control over symptoms); (3) correction of thinking errors; (4) emotional processing and cognitive re-evaluation of the childhood trauma and schema changes; and (5) termination. A case example is presented, and a call for research into the efficacy of this approach is made.

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