Interpersonal psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder

Clin Psychol Psychother. 2012 Mar-Apr;19(2):124-33. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1777. Epub 2012 Feb 20.


This paper outlines an approach to the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD) based on principles of interpersonal psychotherapy. The rationale for using a modified version of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is described-BPD is a disorder of attachment, depression is commonly associated with BPD and the primary symptoms of BPD such as rapid mood fluctuations, impulsivity and cognitive distortions are manifested within interpersonal relationships. A focus on interpersonal dysfunction between self and others may improve the quality of relationships for these patients and improve their capacity to manage the instability engendered by depressed mood. It is argued that the normal structure of IPT meets the basic requirements of any psychotherapy for BPD but that the current four foci of IPT are inadequate to address the complexity of the problems of the person with BPD. A case is made to extend the focal areas of IPT to increase the specificity of treatment tailoring it to the core pathology of the disorder. It is suggested that consideration of regulation of the self within interpersonal interactions becomes the primary focus for treatment.

Key practitioner message: Borderline personality disorder is manifested through problems on interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal psychotherapy may be a useful treatment for BPD. Interpersonal psychotherapy uses a focus for treatment. A new focus of problems of self/other regulation is suggested. Further research is needed to determine if this approach is effective.

MeSH terms

  • Borderline Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / therapy*
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Object Attachment
  • Psychotherapeutic Processes
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Self Concept