The Impact of Social Distancing on People with Borderline Personality Disorder: The Views of Dialectical Behavioural Therapists

Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2021 May;42(5):410-416. doi: 10.1080/01612840.2020.1817208. Epub 2020 Sep 15.


Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based treatment for borderline personality disorder and other problems associated with emotional dysregulation. It has traditionally been deployed as a face-to-face programme comprised of attendance at group skills training, individual therapy and phone coaching. Social distancing measures arising from the COVID-19 pandemic led to a cessation of therapeutic programmes in many places. This survey of DBT clinicians in a regional State mental health service in Australia explored the impact of the cessation of DBT programmes in the region and obstacles to engaging with people via online platforms. Clinicians have been able to engage in DBT informed care, but it was perceived that many people have experienced a clinical deterioration or have increased their use of crisis services, which is entirely appropriate, as group skills programmes have ceased. Movement to online platforms of delivery poses problems, as some people do not have the access to internet or privacy in their home environments to engage in online therapy. Ideally, clinicians need to be supported through education, supervision and coaching in the use of telehealth interventions. Social distancing requirements has enabled an opportunity to carefully consider how programmes can be adapted to enable the extension of these programmes to those who have traditionally been unable to access them.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / therapy*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy*
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Internet-Based Intervention*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Distancing*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Workers / psychology*
  • Telemedicine / standards*