A New Therapeutic Group to Help Women with Borderline Personality Disorder and Their Infants

Anne E. Sved Williams, Chris Yelland, Sharron Hollamby, Maria Wigley, Paul Aylward

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Few treatments have been described to treat the population of women with borderline personality structure who present in a dysregulated state with their infants. Therefore, a new treatment program was developed for this target group.Methods:A total of 45 women, who were identified clinically as meeting full or partial diagnostic criteria for borderline personality disorder (BPD) and having an infant younger than 3 years of age, were offered entry with their infant(s) into specialized dialectical behavior therapy groups, adapted to focus on parenting and the mother-infant relationship. Outcomes measured included maternal mood and anxiety, BPD functioning, parenting sense of competence, parental reflective functioning, and caregiver-infant interaction (CARE Index). Infants received high-quality child care while mothers attended each group, with dyadic reunions a further therapeutic focus each week.Results:A total of 29 women who met clinical or self-report measures for BPD and were offered group therapy began the program, 21 (72%) of whom completed the 24-week group program, with complete premeasures and postmeasures available for 20 dyads. Of the 20 women, 15 met full diagnostic criteria for BPD and 5 met partial criteria. Significant improvements were noted in maternal mood, with positive changes on 2 subscales of the Parental Reflective Function Questionnaire (prementalizing and increased curiosity in mental states); significant reductions in anxiety and BPD symptomatology were also observed. Only a medium effect size was found for parenting sense of competence, and in smaller numbers of participants as this scale was introduced later. It should particularly be noted that 15 dyads showed substantial change on the CARE Index, indicating improvement in dyadic relationships.Conclusions:This innovative adaptation of mother-infant dialectical behavior therapy showed promising improvements in maternal BPD symptoms and caregiver-infant relationships. Given that the feasibility and safety of this method have been demonstrated, a more methodologically rigorous trial with further refinements appears warranted to help this troubled cohort of patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-340
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • borderline personality disorder
  • dialectical behavior therapy
  • mother-infant dyad


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