Family Experiences in Finding Treatment

By: Regina Piscitelli
TARA Educational Coordinator
DBT-LBC Board Member

Regina Piscitelli

               Families quite often feel helpless while watching their loved one suffer with BPD and they are frantic to ensure their loved one’s safety and well-being. They have great faith in the healing ability of professionals and work very hard trying to motivate and engage their loved one to go into therapy, any type of therapy. Unfortunately, non-evidence based general treatments have been shown to be ineffective for BPD and therefore turn out to be a waste of emotional effort, time and money. At worst, they are iatrogenic. The person with BPD will drop out of therapy leaving them feeling as if they have, once again, “failed”, no treatment can help them and they wind up feeling more hopeless than before. This conclusion is based on experience working with families as well as from people with BPD who participated in TARA’s, “Get The Facts BPD”, Psychoeducation classes. Family members trust the professional and often blame their loved one for not “trying hard enough” while not considering the responsibility of the therapist to develop a connection with the client to avoid termination of therapy. Once the client ends therapy the relationship between the individual and the family is jeopardized. Both parties lose confidence in mental health services. After such an experience, why turn towards another treatment in the future?

               Just as you would not send a love one with heart disease to a nutrionist who claims to be familiar with the heart, why would you go for treatment from someone who claims to treat BPD and is “familiar” with DBT? From the start, individuals and families must be provided with knowledge of, and access to, DBT-Linehan Board Certified programs and therapist. It is of the upmost importance that families and clients check credentials and be aware that a DBT-Linehan Board Certified program and individual therapist have been evaluated to ensure that all of the vital components are present in the treatment. If the program is not certified to the standards of the evidence-based model there is no way of knowing what type of treatment is actually provided. The families and the person with BPD should be informed that DBT-Linehan Board Certification is a specific and rigorous process that requires periodic review and oversight. A certified DBT-Linehan program includes a vital pretreatment stage, weekly skills groups, a consultation team in place and a therapist available for phone coaching. It is important that they are informed of the four stages of treatment. Engaging in DBT-Linehan Board Certified treatment could prevent treatment dropout that is so devastating to families and those with BPD. By having families and clients engaged l and informed about the specifics of receiving DBT-Linehan Board Certification and what the treatment provides empowers and motivates both the families and the person with BPD to go to treatment and stay in treatment knowing that they are receiving the best care available.