Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Treatment
Borderline Personality Disorder or “BPD” is a serious illness which can affect young people. I provide emotion focused psychotherapy to help young people recover and heal from the trauma of BPD. As part of my approach to BPD treatment, I also help families support one another during the times of stress caused by a family member’s diagnosis - especially a new one.
Are you feeling overwhelmed, confused and worried about your child’s behaviour?
Is it hard to talk to your teen or young person without getting into a fight?
Do you find it difficult to understand them?
Are you feeling lost and alone - like no-one can understand or help?
Does your teen:
seem reckless and impulsive?
have they become unpredictable, sullen or angry?
do they seem anxious or depressed?
do they have a lot of mood swings?
are they spending less and less time doing the things they used to enjoy?
have they had a lot of fall-outs with friends or girl-friends/boyfriends?
are you concerned that your young person is taking drugs, getting drunk or putting themselves in dangerous situations (e.g. partying, getting drunk, staying out late.)
These could all be signs of an illness called BPD.
Although some moodiness and difficulties are normal for a young person going through adolescence, with BPD these issues will be more severe.
BPD (or Borderline Personality Disorder) is an illness that develops in a young person as they are growing up.
It is caused by a range of factors including genetic vulnerabilities, environmental factors, and how a child’s temperament and emotional sensitivity interact with the environment.
Whilst BPD is quite serious, it is also relatively common AND despite what you may have heard, treatable.
Getting help early on can make a huge difference in the lives of young people with BPD.
Research tells us that there is good evidence for the success of treating BPD using psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy which helps young people develop self-awareness and improves their ability to enjoy stable relationships.
Psychotherapy with a caring, empathetic and skilled therapist will help your young person learn how to manage their emotions, have more fulfilling relationships and cope better at home, school and work.
Therapy for BPD works by helping your child to develop a stronger relationship with themselves. Knowing what you want, need, and how you feel influences how you are with other people. When they lose touch with these things, young people can’t be stable in their friendships or close relationships and will have trouble managing their feelings. They don't have a secure base from which to branch out and explore, enjoy social interactions, take reasonable risks and make good decisions for themselves – all things we hope a healthy adolescent can and will do.
BPD treatment helps young people learn how to manage a close relationship through learning to manage their relationship with their therapist.
This is achieved through coaching, encouraging self-awareness and learning about what other people might be thinking and feeling. The therapist will talk with them about their reactions, responses and assumptions and how certain ways of thinking might be creating problems for them. The therapist will also be able to tell the young person how their behaviour might be affecting others through exploring challenging behaviours (and the reasons behind them) in a non-judgemental and compassionate way.
An experienced BPD therapist will also model good management and containment of feelings and be able to explore with the young person the feelings and emotions that may cause them to behave in ways that are puzzling, distressing or counter-productive.
As they learn self-awareness through psychotherapy, the young person with BPD will understand better what is going on for them and be able to check for signs that they are getting overwhelmed or upset. They will learn how to handle situations which might otherwise be triggering for them. Although other forms of treatment can help with learning social skills and self-soothing, only psychotherapy has been shown to resolve the trauma and identity issues underlying BPD.
Through BPD therapy, your child will become calmer and more secure, able to withstand the ups and downs of life and as they heal you will discover a new and more rewarding relationship with them.
You may have some concerns about bringing your child to therapy.
I’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to work. How do I know you will be able to help my child?
It can be hard for parents to have hope in this situation. Often the difficulties with treatment are more to do with finding the right therapist than with the problem being insoluble. In order for any therapy to work, the young person needs to stay in therapy.
My experience of working with young people with BPD is that, although it is a serious illness, they will respond to a therapist who is sensitive and empathetic and one who is able to maintain strong boundaries.
This all helps by providing the young person with a feeling of safety and connection - and most importantly - trust.
My teen is difficult and angry, what if they won’t participate (or stay) in therapy?
For BPD treatment, the therapeutic relationship is very important. I will work hard to develop trust and rapport with your teen. This is a vital part of the work. My work with young people at headspace and in the public mental health system has helped me develop skill in building rapport and trust. My experience tells me that young people who might be angry and difficult will respond well to an understanding, empathetic presence and to being in a space where they can talk about what is troubling them without feeling judged.
How will I know that my teen is going to stay safe?
This is an important consideration, especially for a young person at risk of developing a personality disorder and it is one that worries many parents. When I assess your child, I will include a safety plan if necessary and coping strategies for times outside of sessions. My aim is to provide a safe and nurturing environment where your young person can trust me to listen to them in a non-judgemental and accepting way. I have worked with young people who have attempted suicide and others who have had inpatient admissions, so I understand these challenges. I will work to help your child feel safe and to look after themselves as well as to reach out when they need to.
The experience of therapy and a secure relationship with an empathetic therapist will allow them to trust others and themselves, and make them less likely to put themselves at risk.
It sounds like this will take a while: how will I know that its working?
Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder involves developing a trusting, warm and secure relationship with the young person whilst still maintaining the boundaries needed to help them feel safe. The relationship between client and therapist is what will help heal your child. This can take a while to develop and there can also be ups and downs during this time, where they might feel stressed or upset. That’s normal for any therapy. Therapy will help your child learn to manage their emotions, self-soothe and develop a better sense of self. As the therapy unfolds you will notice that your teen will become calmer and less volatile and they will be able to enjoy life much more.
I’ve heard that BPD therapy is expensive – How will I afford all this – especially if it takes a long time?
As a social worker, I am committed to making therapy affordable for everyone. I offer Medicare rebate-able sessions to eligible clients, and am able to bulk bill those with a health care card. If money is providing an obstacle to beginning (or continuing) therapy, we can discuss how to make it more affordable for you and your teen.
Psychotherapy for BPD is an investment in your adolescent, your family and your relationships. By helping your teen develop more self-awareness and better coping strategies, you are investing in their future – and yours.
As he or she develops and matures through therapy, your young person will use these new skills to better cope with life’s challenges and to create a fulfilling and meaningful life. Investing in your child’s health now will help them avoid more serious problems (and more expensive treatment) in the future – and help you and your family create a happier home life.
I have worked with many young people with BPD and I have also helped parents of young people cope with mental illness in the family. I understand how hard it can be – for everyone. My experience tells me that young people with BPD will respond well to a caring, empathetic and non-judgemental therapist who is willing to listen to their concerns and who can help them to feel safe.
Take the Steps to Help your Teen Heal now
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For my free BPD cheatsheet please complete the form below.
My Free BPD Guide outlines what to look out for, what to expect, how treatment works and what you need to do to look after yourself.
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