Advancing the treatment of long-lasting borderline personality disorder: a feasibility and acceptability study of an expanded DBT-based skills intervention

Joaquim Soler, Elisabet Casellas-Pujol, Juan Carlos Pascual*, Carlos Schmidt, Elisabet Domínguez-Clavé, Ausias Cebolla, David Alvear, Anna Muro, Matilde Elices

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Long-term follow-up studies in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) consistently show persistent impairment in psychosocial adjustment, although symptoms tend to decrease over time. Consequently, it might be better to deemphasize symptom-oriented interventions and instead promote interventions that incorporate patient perspectives on recovery. In this study we aimed to examine the feasibility and acceptability of a novel intervention (dialectical behavioral therapy combined with positive psychology and contextual-based skills) in the clinical treatment of long-lasting BPD difficulties. Methods: This was a qualitative study. We developed an initial 8-week group intervention for long-lasting BPD. Upon completion of the 8-week program, the participants were asked to participate in a group discussion to provide feedback. Based on that feedback, the intervention protocol was modified and then offered to a second group of patients, who also provided feedback. The protocol was revised again and administered to a third group. A total of 32 patients participated in the group interventions; of these, 20 provided feedback in the qualitative study. The main outcome measure was acceptability. Results: The following overarching themes emerged from the group interviews: helpful, unhelpful and neutral practices; internal/external barriers; facilitators; and effects. Participants reported difficulties in imagining an optimal future and self-compassion. By contrast, positive skills were associated with an increase in positive emotions. The main internal barrier was facing difficult emotions. The main external barriers were language-related issues. The group format was perceived as a facilitator to success. Dropout rates, which were assessed as an additional measure of acceptability, decreased substantially in each successive group, from 60 to 40% and finally 20%. Conclusions: The intervention was feasible to implement in the clinical setting and participants rated the final set of skills highly. Most of the skills were considered useful. Participant feedback was invaluable to improve the intervention, as evidenced by the large increase in the retention rate from 40 to 80%. Randomized clinical trials are needed to test the efficacy of this intervention in promoting well-being in participants with long-lasting BPD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number34
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalBorderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Acceptability
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Contextual approach
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Feasibility
  • Long-lasting BPD
  • Positive psychology
  • Skills training

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