People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have interpersonal relationships characterized by irrational behavior and instability. They often have significant trouble in maintaining close attachments with others, even therapists, because they have difficulty separating out their own personal feelings and thoughts from those around them.

BPD is traditionally treated with a combination of a specific type of psychotherapy (called dialectical behavior therapy) and sometimes medications to treat other specific, related concerns (such as depression).

But an alternative psychotherapy treatment approach is also available, called mentalization based therapy (MBT). This psychodynamic approach focuses on helping an individual separate out what thoughts and feelings are theirs, and what thoughts and feelings are others’. While this may seem like an obvious thing to know or how to do, it is theorized that people with borderline personality disorder often have difficulty with just this thing.

New research published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found that five years after treatment was completed, people who received mentalization treatment did significantly better than those who didn’t (on measures such as suicidality, diagnosis, medication, global functional and use of additional treatment services).

The mentalization treatment group received 18 months of mentalization based therapy, and they also received another 18 months of maintenance mentalizing group therapy, for a total of 3 years worth of treatment.

Keep in mind that personality disorders like borderline are disorders a person takes a lifetime to learn. Anything that can significantly impact these kinds of disorders in just 3 years’ time is an important treatment approach to note.