“Good Enough” Psychiatric Residency Training in Borderline Personality Disorder: Challenges, Choice Points, and a Model Generalist Curriculum

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While the public health burden posed by borderline personality disorder (BPD) rivals that associated with other major mental illnesses, the prevailing disposition of psychiatrists toward the disorder remains characterized by misinformation, stigma, aversive attitudes, and insufficient familiarity with effective generalist treatments that can be delivered in nonspecialized health care settings. Residency training programs are well positioned to better equip the next generation of psychiatrists to address these issues, but no consensus or guidelines currently exist for what and how residents should be taught about managing BPD. Instead, disproportionately limited curricular time, teaching of non-evidence-based approaches, and modeling of conceptually confused combinations of techniques drawn from specialty BPD treatments are offered. In this article, we (1) explain why training in a generalist model is sensible and why alternative approaches are not appropriate for residents, (2) propose a plan for giving residents adequate training via a generalist model, highlighting minimal didactic and clinical-training objectives (dubbed “core competencies” and “milestones”) and a model curriculum developed at the Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital residency program, and (3) describe obstacles to implementation of effective generalist training posed by infrastructural, faculty-centered, and resident-centered variables.

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