Treat BPD with cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy is the cornerstone of the treatment of patients with borderline personality disorder. Different types of cognitive behavioral therapies, including two unique types used to help BPD patients, can help people adopt healthy coping skills and achieve a good quality of life.

What is cognitive behavioral therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapy that addresses the “cognitive” (thinking-related) and “behavioral” (action-related) aspects of mental health.

The goal of CBT is to help you reduce symptoms by changing the way you think about or interpret situations and the actions you take in your daily life.

Expectations for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is very focused on the present, which means you rarely talk about your past. Although you may talk to your therapist about how you started thinking or behaving, most treatments focus on the relationship between your current thinking/behaving style and your symptoms, and how to change these patterns.

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CBT is also quite instructive, which means that your therapist will usually play an active role in your treatment process and provide you with direct advice and guidance.

Because cognitive behavioral therapists assume that your symptoms are partly related to the thinking and behavior patterns you have learned over the years, they believe that one or two hours of treatment per week will not produce any major changes.

For this reason, most CBT therapists will assign homework-they want you to work hard to change the model outside of the treatment process.Therefore, don’t be surprised if you leave handouts to read and worksheets to complete in the CBT treatment course.


Although the basic principles of CBT can help patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), some experts point out that this disorder requires specialized CBT technology. Two unique cognitive behavioral therapies specifically designed for BPD are:

Both Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Schematic Focus Therapy have been shown to be effective in reducing BPD symptoms.DBT includes individual and group therapy courses, as well as telephone counseling courses, where BPD people focus on behavioral skills, such as:

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  • Realize mindfulness-focus on the present or live in the present
  • adjust emotion
  • Tolerate pain or conflict
  • Deal with relationships with others
  • Gain motivation to avoid unhealthy coping skills (such as self-harm)

Schema-centric therapy is based on the idea that personality disorders such as BPD develop due to maladaptive thoughts or behaviors early in life. Then, people will develop unhealthy coping skills, such as avoidance, to avoid triggering these thoughts or behaviors.

Schema focused therapy is not like traditional cognitive behavioral therapy because it is more flexible and can adapt to a person’s emotions. It also requires a longer treatment period, ranging from one to four years.

Find a cognitive behavioral therapist

Although CBT has existed for decades, it is difficult to find a therapist trained in this method. If you are interested in finding a CBT therapist in your area, please try the Find-a-Therapist Directory of the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapist Association.

If you are interested in finding a dialectical behavioral therapist, please try the Behavioral Technology Clinical Resources Directory. It is also a good idea to talk to your primary doctor or psychiatrist for a referral to make sure this is the right treatment plan for you.

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