Is Group Therapy Beneficial for Borderline Personality Disorder?

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a difficult challenge for many. The struggle to control thoughts, actions, and reactions permeates their everyday lives and relationships. Their sense of self is highly dependent on their mood swings and often chaotic relationships with others, and they have difficulty managing stress, conflict, and the emotions of others. Living with BPD essentially means coping with a pattern of regular instability that spans mood, behaviors, identity, communication, and everyday functions. 

For many people living with BPD, the condition can be very misunderstood. Uncontrollable emotions often lead to suicidal ideation (such as responding to rejection with suicidal thoughts). In order to mitigate the immediate threat of suicide, most therapists will focus on managing the most difficult symptoms, first, through a type of cognitive behavioral therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This type of treatment was developed specifically for BPD, and helps to resolve impulsivity, emotional dysregulation, interpersonal conflict, self-harm and other suicidal behaviors and thoughts.  

The primary goal of DBT is to help individuals struggling with certain behaviors and mental health conditions to better cope with stress, regulate their emotions, stay present in every moment, and consequently improve the health of their relationships with others. 

DBT is used in a variety of settings to help treat many types of conditions. Some of these include: 

  • Group Therapy: In this setting, members are taught DBT skills with a group of their peers and are able to practice DBT application in a safe, controlled environment led by a licensed mental health professional.
  • Individual Therapy: For one-on-one therapy, DBT can be leveraged by a trained mental health specialist to identify the patients destructive behaviors in order to replace them with healthy behavioral skills. 

For most individuals living with BPD, they’ll need a combination of group therapy and individual treatment in order to get the best possible help. One reason DBT is so effective in a group setting for BPD sufferers is that the focus of DBT (and other cognitive behavioral treatment regimens proven to impact BPD in a positive way) is on teaching participants behavioral skills that help them cope with their symptoms and bring positivity to their interactions with others. Working through practical application of therapeutic techniques in a group setting allows for real-world practice in a safe, healthy environment led by a licensed therapist. Some of these techniques (for DBT in particular) include: 

  • Mindfulness: how to be aware of yourself and your emotions and stay present in the moment
  • Distress Tolerance: learning to cope with difficult or uncomfortable experiences and communication 
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: being able to ask for what you want and need and learning to say no in healthy ways to establish boundaries and self-respect
  • Emotional Regulation: discovering how to manage highs and lows and adjust emotional experiences that don’t serve you

For most individuals using DBT to treat their Borderline Personality Disorder, they’ll need to work through all four models in group therapy for about a year in order to see major improvements. Some individuals may even repeat specific modules in order to truly master the skill sets, depending on the severity of their symptoms. 

It takes a lot of time and energy to adapt the coping mechanisms required to master BPD and establish a better quality of life. Group therapy can help, as it provides a place for accountability, friendship, and a sense of community on your journey through DBT principles and applications. When new skills are introduced to your group, you’re able to practice them in the group with your counterparts and then create homework assignments to practice the skills in everyday life. 

Group therapy has a number of other benefits, including: 

  1. A safe and non-judgmental space to build confidence as you talk openly about your frustrations, challenges, and thoughts
  2. The ability to learn from others with similar struggles (which can help you feel much less alone)
  3. A sounding board for objective points of view from those who understand you, but aren’t close to your everyday life
  4. A cost-efficient solution (group counseling is more affordable than individual therapy)

Interested in group therapy for Borderline Personality Disorder? 

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