Early psychotherapy process and cluster B and C personality pathology: similarities and differences in interactions with symptomatic and interpersonal distress

Psychother Res. 2005 Jul;15(3):165-77. doi: 10.1080/10503300512331387825.


Abstract In a prior study (Kolden & Klein, 1996), the authors found that the relationships between global personality pathology and early psychotherapy change processes (as defined by the Generic Model of Psychotherapy) were moderated by the extent of the patient's acute symptomatic and interpersonal distress. In the current study, the authors reanalyzed the same data to examine similarities and differences between personality disorder Clusters B (dramatic, emotional, or erratic) and C (anxious or fearful) in therapy process. In general, we found that more distressed patients reported greater defensiveness. There were no significant interactions between symptomatic distress and personality pathology in the prediction of any of the process variables. However, interpersonal distress moderated relationships between Clusters B and C and some therapy processes. Patients high in Cluster B felt more open and involved in the session when they were less distressed by their interpersonal problems at the start of therapy. In contrast, openness and insight were impeded among patients high in Cluster C when they were less distressed interpersonally. Therapists generally used more direct interventions and exploration of past experiences when working with patients higher in Cluster C pathology. However, therapists used direct interventions more specifically when patients with more severe Cluster B pathology were also higher in interpersonal distress. The discussion considers implications for the facilitation of productive early therapy process in patients suffering from Cluster B or C personality pathology.