Why Long-Term Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Centers Offer New Hope
Borderline personality disorder was once considered an untreatable condition, but a growing body of research proving treatment efficacy has renewed hope for people struggling with BPD and their families. By learning what effective treatment looks like and understanding the value of long-term borderline personality disorder treatment centers, you can guide your loved one toward the care they need and work together for lasting recovery.
Last month, hundreds of people gathered in Toronto to walk together. It was a beautiful Sunday, the kind of spring day we spend winters dreaming of. It was the kind of day Sasha Menu Courey should have seen.
Sasha is no longer here. But the memory of her was everywhere on that day. She was the reason friends, families, and strangers came together for the fifth annual Borderline 5-Kilometre Walk for Emotional Dysregulation, organized by the Sashabear Foundation. Created by Sasha’s parents, Lynn and Mike, in the wake of her suicide in 2011, the foundation seeks to raise both funds for and awareness about borderline personality disorder, the illness that took Sasha’s life. “We have to break the stigma,” says Lynn. “We have to show our support that they’re not alone.”
The circumstances of the walk are heartbreaking. But the spirit of it is something else: hopeful. The crowd did not walk in mourning, but to awaken a sense of possibility. Before Sasha ended her life, she was getting better. She was in an inpatient treatment program receiving intensive dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which, she wrote in her journal, was like “air to breathe.” Her parents firmly believe that it was not inefficacy of treatment that led to the deterioration of her condition, but the premature discontinuation of that treatment; Sasha was preparing to leave the hospital when she took her life. As Sasha’s parents say, their work is now spreading a “message of hope about how effective treatment does exist.”
People struggling with this complex disorder must carefully evaluate borderline personality disorder treatment centers to ensure that they offer the right kind, quality, and duration of care to truly make lasting change. In practice, this typically falls to the families of people living with BPD, who have often fought long and hard to get help for their loved one.
The Renewal of Hope
Messages of hope are rare when it comes to borderline personality disorder. Historically, BPD has been considered extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to treat. Today, many clinicians still give up before they even start, convinced that patients with the disorder are a lost cause. This myth of BPD as untreatable is deeply damaging, as it is robbing both patients and families of hope and preventing countless people from getting the help they need to live stable, healthy, and joyful lives.
But slowly, hope has grown even in spite of this stigma. The introduction of DBT in the 1980s opened up the door to new possibilities in borderline personality disorder treatment, possibilities that have steadily expanded as we have come to more deeply understand this once enigmatic illness. Today, research confirms that BPD is far from untreatable. As Dr. Joel Paris writes in The American Journal of Psychiatry, “It is now well established that while outcome is heterogenous, most patients do well, with the majority no longer meeting diagnostic criteria over time.” In fact, Dr. Paris points out, “the prognosis of borderline personality disorder is much better than that of bipolar disorder.”
What Effective Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Looks Like
Unlike bipolar disorder, however, borderline personality disorder does not have a wealth of pharmacological treatment options. While psychotropic medications may be used to address particular symptoms in some cases, there is no psychotropic medication designed to treat BPD as a whole. Rather, treatment primarily centers around individual and group-based psychotherapeutic interventions designed to teach emotional and behavioral coping skills that promote better self-regulation, distress tolerance, self-esteem, and social skills. Most often, dedicated dialectical behavioral therapy is considered the centerpiece of any borderline personality disorder treatment. However, truly comprehensive care draws from a range of modalities to create holistic treatment experiences.
But effective borderline personality disorder treatment is about more than the technicalities of treatment types. The symptoms of BPD arise as a disordered way of coping with overwhelming distress, particularly fears of rejection, judgment, and abandonment. Unfortunately, many people with BPD have experienced mental health treatment as an environment in which those fears are confirmed, rather than alleviated, due to the absence of stable, trusting, and positive interactions with mental health professionals.
“[People with BPD] are in excruciating pain that is almost always discounted by others and attributed to bad motives,” says Dr. Marsha Linehan, the renowned psychologist who devised DBT. This misconception too often extends to clinicians who fail to understand the true impetus behind BPD symptomatology and, as a result, reinforce their clients’ distress instead of treating it. As such, it is critical that clinicians have the expertise and compassion to create a warm and validating therapeutic relationship in which people with BPD feel safe and supported enough to engage in treatment.
The Value of Long-Term Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Centers
Borderline personality disorder treatment isn’t a short-term endeavor. The damaging emotional and behavioral patterns that define the illness are so deeply ingrained that typical 30-90 day stays in residential treatment centers often fail to produce lasting results, instead causing devastating relapse upon return home. As such, families considering residential care should instead look to long-term borderline personality disorder treatment centers for the best possible outcomes. Long-term programs allow clinical care to be tailored to each person’s needs, rather than following a set timeline that may not align with your family member’s stage of healing. In these environments, your loved one will be able to receive the duration of therapy necessary to make real changes through sustained therapeutic engagement.
Some long-term BPD treatment programs offer something that goes beyond formal therapy sessions. BrightQuest, for instance, allows clients to receive the benefit of a mutually supportive therapeutic community in which everyday lived experiences become a part of the therapeutic process. Here, your loved one is able to continuously learn and practice the emotional and behavioral regulation skills needed to address the instability inherent to their illness, replacing damaging patterns with new, healthy norms over time and allowing them to take root.
Because clients are able to receive real-time feedback from compassionate peers and witness positive social interactions on an everyday basis, they are able to more fully understand and integrate new skills during their time in treatment. This therapeutic community naturally lends itself to the development of the social support systems and healthy emotional management so critical to recovery and gradually allows for greater degrees of independence.
Working Together for Lasting Recovery
The ultimate goal of treatment, of course, is to be able to leave treatment and sustain the gains that have been made in care. But as Jane Brody writes for The New York Times, “The value of [treatment] can be thwarted if patients return to an environment that misunderstands them.” As such, it is essential to use your loved one’s time in treatment as an opportunity to repair damaged relationships and create an understanding, validating, and loving home environment.
By seeking out a treatment center that invites family involvement and offers dedicated family programming you can come to more deeply understand what your loved one is going through and develop the skills needed to support them in healthy ways. This is essential to guarding against relapse and making the family a positive place of healing. At the same time, you receive the support you need to cope with your own feelings about and experiences with your loved one’s illness.
Borderline personality disorder can be disorienting, frustrating, and profoundly sad. But with the right care, healing is possible, both for your loved one and for your family. Together, you can work toward recovery with compassion and love to build the foundation for lasting stability, connection, and joy.
BrightQuest offers long-term residential treatment for people struggling mental illness as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward healing.
Lead image source: Unsplash user Sergey Zolkin