If you’ve been following along this blog series, you by now have a brief yet comprehensive introduction to the different types of personality disorders. If you haven’t read the first two blogs yet, check them out here & here and then come back to this article. The aim for this month’s blog is to offer some direction and hopefulness to anyone who feels they struggle with one or more personality disorders. Treatment is available and has been proven to help soften characteristics of these disorders so that individuals can live fulfilling lives with meaningful relationships to themselves and others.
Treatment for personality disorders is often comprehensive and can involve a team of support. More specifically, this comprehensive approach can often include psychiatry, individual therapy and group therapy. Sometimes, intensive outpatient programs or inpatient programs can be a part of the treatment as well. Medication can address the biological components of a mental health disorder, which helps stabilize an individual, allowing psychotherapy to be more effective. Personality disorders tend to be comorbid with other mental health diagnoses such as depression and anxiety, which can be treated, in part, with medication and then therapy can be designed to more effectively address the components of one’s personality and how it interferes with their life.
Psychotherapy can be helpful in many ways. First and foremost, therapy can provide an individual with a safe space to explore and better understand the reality of their personality. Psychoeducation can be provided by a therapist, which will explain the different components of one’s disorder as well as what supports and treatment approaches are available. This can be incredibly validating for an individual who has previously suffered quietly. To be able to hear a therapist understand symptomology, offer an explanation for it, and be able to sit in the feelings of this realization with you can be quite powerful. Some therapists may offer a formal diagnosis, whereas others may leave the term outside of session and focus more so on your unique experience of the disorder. Either way, knowing that someone is listening and understands what is going on can be incredibly relieving, comforting and validating. Therapy will then allow you space to explore, challenge and better understand your moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviors, as well as ways to cope with and better manage your disorder.
Many different therapy modalities can be useful in the treatment of personality disorders. Therapy can be done in an individual and/or group setting. Oftentimes, within individual therapy, family members may be brought in for some sessions as well. One of the most common therapy modalities recommended for someone with a personality disorder is DBT, which stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. DBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy designed originally to treat borderline personality disorder, but is now used and adapted to treat a wide range of mental health diagnoses.
DBT is composed of four modules: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. Non-coincidentally these tend to be four areas individuals struggling with personality disorders can benefit from working on. DBT is skills based and helps individuals learn how to better regulate themselves and cope in healthy ways to distressing situations and feelings. DBT can be offered in individual settings, and also in skills groups. These groups can be a great addition to individual work because they allow individuals to practice the DBT skills in a collaborative setting. Clients can then bring what comes up for them in group to individual sessions to unpack and explore. Some DBT therapists will additionally offer coaching calls to aide individuals outside of appointments. To learn more about DBT, check out this this more comprehensive article on Psychology Today. Some therapists and treatment centers are dedicated entirely to a DBT practice, whereas other integrative therapists like those at Gateway to Solutions will incorporate elements of DBT into their approach.
When it comes to finding proper support, feeling safe and comfortable with your therapist and care team is most important. Working with someone who understands personality disorders and invites you to speak freely about your experiences and feelings will be invaluable in your work to feeling better and more connected.