Family Skills: A Naturalistic Pilot Study of a Family-Oriented Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a severe emotion regulation disorder that, according to the biosocial theory of BPD, is developed and maintained through transactions between biologically vulnerable persons and their environment. Family members of those with BPD may experience deleterious consequences as a result of their relative’s illness. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed as a comprehensive treatment for persons with BPD, and there are programs designed specifically to treat family members. These programs aim to help family members cope with their own stressors, and help them learn more effective ways to communicate and interact with their relatives with mental illness. This pilot study evaluated the effectiveness of a family-oriented DBT program, called Family Skills, in a sample of 70 participants. Participants received psychoeducation about emotion regulation disorders, and they learned skills related to core mindfulness, validation, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and radical acceptance. Depression, hopelessness, and interpersonal sensitivity scores significantly decreased from pre- to posttreatment. The clinical significance of individual participant changes was also examined, and clinically significant changes were noted in depression, hopelessness, and interpersonal sensitivity. These findings are consistent with previous research in this area and provide further information regarding the utility of family-oriented DBT programs.

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