Cognitive Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Cognitive Therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder, Dr. Mary Anne Layden demonstrates her approach to working with clients with this diagnosis. This therapy focuses on helping the client to substitute the unsuccessful compensatory strategies associated with this disorder with effective life skills. Therapy with clients with borderline personality disorder can be difficult, as the disorder generally involves deep mistrust of other people.
In this session, Dr. Layden works with a 40-year-old woman who reveals some potentially suicidal and homicidal thoughts. Through role-playing, Dr. Layden helps her client to learn skills for expressing her anger appropriately.
This video features a client portrayed by an actor on the basis of actual case material.
Cognitive therapy focuses on transforming three types of cognitions—automatic thoughts, underlying assumptions, and maladaptive schema—and on replacing unsuccessful compensatory strategies with effective life skills. For individuals with borderline personality disorder, the schema level of cognition is the most significant, because these patients usually have deeply held and encompassing trauma-related beliefs that they are defective, unlovable, dependent, incompetent, and entitled and that the world is hostile, untrustworthy, and emotionally depriving. These schema are represented by words and images, may be stored in sensory as well as kinesthetic modes, and evoke extremely painful affective responses.
Such schema can produce significant challenges to the treatment process. For example, mistrust schema make it particularly difficult for patients to authentically engage and bond with the therapist. (Because of this, stages of therapy unfold more slowly for these patients, and the 19th rather than an earlier session of therapy is portrayed in this videotape.) Demanding behavior can also threaten the therapeutic alliance. Empathic acknowledgment of these struggles as they occur in the session lays the groundwork for modifying each schema later in treatment.
The compensatory strategies overlearned in childhood to deal with trauma and overwhelming affect are typically rigidly used in current situations in ineffective and self-defeating ways. Examples include clinging, distancing, manipulation, hostility, aggression, avoidance, and demanding behavior. Substance abuse is quite often a problem. More adaptive coping skills, such as self-soothing and boundary setting, must be learned before the patient can relinquish this limited repertoire of compensatory strategies. Physically self-harming activities, however, must be limited, and alternative tension-reducing activities should be instated from the very beginning of treatment. Later in therapy, more sophisticated communication and problem-solving skills are taught, and rehearsal and modeling help patients incorporate these new skills. This skill training is presented as a way of expanding the patient's options so that incompetence schemas are not inadvertently activated and reinforced.
In the middle stage of therapy, a schema is actually restructured by a process of understanding the schema's genesis, beginning with the less traumatic aspects of childhood, and challenging the schema's appropriateness in current situations. Patients learn first to identify the triggers that activate particular schema and the person from their past whose voice is echoed in the schema. The patient then learns to examine the veracity of the schema in light of more recent experiences (i.e., with new coping skills patients begin to have more self-esteem and more harmonious experiences with others). The therapist challenges the patient to discriminate "the then from the now" and to assign more adaptive meaning to today's experiences. Imagery, art, and other nonverbal modes of working are also used to modify schemas. As more severely traumatic memories emerge in treatment, the patient is taught to pace the work and to use the self-soothing skills learned earlier.
As cognitions are transformed and skills are learned, patients experience a diminution of distressing affect. They come to know themselves, to be themselves, and to love themselves, making the somewhat arduous process of therapy rewarding for patients and therapists alike.
Dr. Layden identifies her approach as "cognitive therapy." What does this imply to you? More specifically, what do you expect of her? Will Dr. Layden be active or passive? Will the session be structured or unstructured? Directive or nondirective? Will it focus on the past or on the present? Will the session focus on behaviors, on thoughts, or on feelings? What do you expect to be the relative balance between attention to technique versus the interpersonal interaction?
Mary Anne Layden, PhD, received her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 1981. She taught at Beaver College from 1979 to 1991 and received her postdoctoral training at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania in 1985. She continued at the center as staff psychologist and then senior consultant. From 1989 to 1990 she also taught cognitive therapy at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. Dr. Layden is currently director of education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy.
Dr. Layden is the author of numerous journal articles on cognitive therapy, and in 1993 she coauthored the book Cognitive Therapy of Borderline Personality Disorder with C. Newman, A. Freeman, and S. Morse.
In addition, Dr. Layden has lectured extensively in the United States and abroad on cognitive therapy, imagery techniques in psychotherapy, and treatment of adults with childhood trauma and personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder.
- Arntz, A. (1994). Treatment of borderline personality disorder: A challenge for cognitive-behavioural therapy. Behaviour Therapy and Research, 32, 419–430.
- Beck, A. T., Freeman, A., & Associates. (1990). Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. New York: Guilford Press.
- Godlman, S. T., D'Angelo, E. J., DeMaso, D. R., & Mezzacappa, E. (1992). Physical and sexual abuse histories among children with borderline personality disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 149, 1723–1726.
- Hawton, K., Salkovskis, P., Kirk, J., & Clark, D. M. (Eds.). (1989). Cognitive-behavior therapy for psychiatric problems: A practical guide. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
- Layden, M. A., Newman, C. F., Freman, A., & Morse, S. (1993). Cognitive therapy of borderline personality disorder. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
- Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.
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- Young, J. E., & Klosko, J. S. (1993). Reinventing your life. New York: Dutton.
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