Future Challenges in Psychotherapy Research for Personality Disorders

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2022 Nov;24(11):613-622. doi: 10.1007/s11920-022-01379-4.


Purpose of review: Individuals with personality disorders are frequently seen in mental health settings. Their symptoms typically reflect a high level of suffering and burden of disease, with potentially harmful societal consequences, including costs related to absenteeism at work, high use of health services, ineffective or harmful parenting, substance use, suicidal and non-suicidal self-harming behavior, and aggressiveness with legal consequences. Psychotherapy is currently the first-line treatment for patients with personality disorders, but the study of psychotherapy in the domain of personality disorders faces specific challenges.

Recent findings: Challenges include knowing what works for whom, identifying which putative mechanisms of change explain therapeutic effects, and including the social interaction context of patients with a personality disorder. By following a dimensional approach, psychotherapy research on personality disorders may serve as a model for the development and study of innovative psychotherapeutic interventions. We recommend developing the following: (a) an evidence base to make treatment decisions based on individual features; (b) a data-driven approach to predictors, moderators, and mechanisms of change in psychotherapy; (c) methods for studying the interaction between social context and psychotherapy.

Keywords: Challenges; Dimensional conception; Methodology; Personality disorders; Psychotherapy research; Recommendation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Personality Disorders* / psychology
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Self-Injurious Behavior*
  • Suicidal Ideation