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Type of Personality Disorder Influences Professional Staff Interaction

A new study suggests the way in which health professionals respond emotionally to substance abuse patients with personality disorders, depends on the type of disorder.

The investigation builds upon research that determined antisocial and aggressive behavior in patients can affect how professionals manage them.

Birgitte Thylstrup and Morten Hesse of Aarhus University, Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research, in Copenhagen, Denmark, lead the investigation to distinguish the unique affects of different personality disorders on professional health care workers.

The idea that the emotional reactions of a professional to his or her patient may play an important part in psychotherapeutic treatment dates back to the work of Sigmund Freud.

He coined the term ‘countertransferance’ to describe the observation that a patient’s influence on the analyst’s unconscious feelings may interfere with the patient’s treatment.

In order to test whether this hypothesis holds for the interaction between health professionals and substance abuse patients, the researchers asked staff members to complete an inventory of emotional reactions to their patients. Concomitantly, the patients, most commonly men in their thirties, were asked to complete a personality disorder questionnaire.

The researchers then sought to determine if there were any correlations between the emotional reactions reported by staff and the type of personality disorder in the patient.

Not unexpectedly, they found that patients with features of antisocial personality disorder induced feelings of distance in their health professional.

Interestingly, professional staff members reported feelings of helpfulness when working with an individual who displayed features of avoidant personality disorder.

“The patient with antisocial personality disorder tends to be manipulative and aggressive. It is natural for staff members to react to such behavior with some negative reactions, and this is not a sign of unprofessional conduct”, says Morten Hesse.

“On the other hand, the patient with avoidant personality disorder is often cautious and appears vulnerable and needy. In that context, many clinicians feel that they can be useful to the patient, and feel secure in their role as treatment providers.”

The researchers point out that by using self-reporting, rather than disorders assessed by the staff, they have, for the first time, avoided the problem of a confounding diagnosis.

“Staff reactions should be considered in supervision of staff, and in treatment models for substance abuse patients with personality disorders,” the researchers conclude.

Source: Biomed Central

Type of Personality Disorder Influences Professional Staff Interaction

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Type of Personality Disorder Influences Professional Staff Interaction. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 18, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/04/10/type-of-personality-disorder-influences-professional-staff-interaction/2142.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.