Clinical Observations About the Potential Benefits and Pitfalls of Between-Session Contacts with Borderline Patients

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Abstract

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has a reputation for being a challenging disorder to treat due to the nature of the illness. With the development of evidence-based treatments, therapists are becoming more skilled at successfully helping this cohort of patients. A common factor associated with all validated treatments for BPD is the active involvement of therapists. For example, DBT is one treatment where therapists are expected to be available to patients for coaching outside of sessions. However, understanding the benefits and pitfalls associated with therapists’ accessibility in between sessions is relevant to any treatment with intersession contact. In this article, three benefits of intersession contact are described: to generalize the use of skills, to improve understanding of the patient’s needs, and to facilitate an alliance. This article also addresses the pitfalls of therapists being so accessible to patients. Both the benefits and pitfalls of intersession contact are illustrated using case vignettes. Assessing the function served by a patient’s contact in between sessions is an important way to determine whether such contact is a productive part of treatment. Recommendations are provided to avoid detrimental outcomes for both the therapist (therapist burnout) and the patient.

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