Searching in the dark: Shining a light on some predictors of non-response to psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder

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Background Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a prevalent and serious mental health condition. People can experience recovery or remission after receiving psychotherapy for BPD; however, it is estimated that about 45% of people in well conducted treatment trials do not respond adequately to current psychological treatments. Aim To further advance psychotherapies for BPD by identifying the factors that contribute to the problem of non-response. Method 184 consecutive participants with BPD in community treatment were naturalistically followed up over 12 months and measures of personality and social functioning were examined. Logistic regressions were used to determine which baseline factors were associated with the likelihood of being a non-responder after 12 months of psychotherapy. After 12 months, 48.4% of participants were classed as non-responders due to a lack of reduction in BPD symptoms according to the Reliable Change Index (RCI) method. Results At baseline intake, patients who endorsed an adult preoccupied attachment relationship style and increased anger were more likely to be a non-responder regarding BPD symptoms at 12 months. In addition, those with preoccupied attachment patterns in their adult relationships were more likely to be non-responders regarding general psychological distress at follow up. Higher baseline levels of paranoia and endorsement of a dismissive adult relationship style was associated with being a non-responder in regard to global functioning. Conclusions Consistent with previous research, almost half of the sample did not achieve reliable change at 12-month follow up. A relationship style characterised by preoccupied insecurity and high anger seemed to be particularly challenging in being able to benefit from psychotherapy. This style may have affected both relationships outside, but also inside therapy, complicating treatment engagement and alliance with the therapist. Early identification and modification of treatment based on challenges from these relationship styles may be one way to improve psychotherapy outcomes for BPD.

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7 July

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