Randomised controlled studies in research environments have demonstrated dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) to be more efficacious than treatment as usual in reducing suicidal behaviour in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Limited evidence exists for the effectiveness of DBT in the treatment of BPD within routine clinical settings. This study examines the clinical and cost effectiveness of providing DBT over treatment as usual in a routine Australian public mental health service. Forty-three adult patients with BPD were provided with outpatient DBT for six months with patient outcomes compared to those obtained from patients in a wait list group receiving treatment as usual (TAU) from the same service. After six months of treatment the DBT group showed significantly greater reductions in suicidal/non-suicidal self-injury, emergency department visits, psychiatric admissions and bed days. Self-report measures were administered to a reduced sample of patients. With this group, DBT patients demonstrated significantly improved depression, anxiety and general symptom severity scores compared to TAU at six months. Average treatment costs were significantly lower for those patients in DBT than those receiving TAU. Therapists who received intensive DBT training were shown to produce significantly greater improvements in patients' suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury than therapists who received only 4 day basic training. Further clinical improvements were achieved in patients offered an additional six months of DBT. This study demonstrates that providing DBT to patients within routine public mental health settings can be both clinically effective and cost effective.
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