Effectiveness of inpatient dialectical behavioral therapy for borderline personality disorder: a controlled trial

Behav Res Ther. 2004 May;42(5):487-99. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(03)00174-8.


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) was initially developed and evaluated as an outpatient treatment program for chronically suicidal individuals meeting criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Within the last few years, several adaptations to specific settings have been developed. This study aims to evaluate a three-month DBT inpatient treatment program. Clinical outcomes, including changes on measures of psychopathology and frequency of self-mutilating acts, were assessed for 50 female patients meeting criteria for BPD. Thirty-one patients had participated in a DBT inpatient program, and 19 patients had been placed on a waiting list and received treatment as usual in the community. Post-testing was conducted four months after the initial assessment (i.e. four weeks after discharge for the DBT group). Pre-post-comparison showed significant changes for the DBT group on 10 of 11 psychopathological variables and significant reductions in self-injurious behavior. The waiting list group did not show any significant changes at the four-months point. The DBT group improved significantly more than participants on the waiting list on seven of the nine variables analyzed, including depression, anxiety, interpersonal functioning, social adjustment, global psychopathology and self-mutilation. Analyses based on Jacobson's criteria for clinically relevant change indicated that 42% of those receiving DBT had clinically recovered on a general measure of psychopathology. The data suggest that three months of inpatient DBT treatment is significantly superior to non-specific outpatient treatment. Within a relatively short time frame, improvement was found across a broad range of psychopathological features. Stability of the recovery after one month following discharge, however, was not evaluated and requires further study.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / therapy*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome