The Use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Prolonged Exposure to Treat Comorbid Dissociation and Self-Harm: The Case of a Client With Borderline Personality Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Hollie F Granato, Chelsey R Wilks, Erin M Miga, Kathryn E Korslund, Marsha M Linehan
Journal of Clinical Psychology 2015, 71 (8): 805-15
There is a high rate of comorbidity between borderline personality disorder (BPD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Pagura et al., 2010). Preliminary studies have evaluated the treatment of PTSD in a BPD population and found positive outcomes for the integration of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and prolonged exposure (PE). This case study illustrates the implementation of a PE protocol into standard DBT treatment, specifically focusing on the management of self-harm and severe dissociation for a client with co-occurring PTSD and BPD. The client entered into treatment with severe and persistent dissociation and a recent history of self-harm, and the case includes consideration of two separate pauses in PTSD treatment related to elevated dissociation and self-harm behaviors. The client successfully completed the DBT PE protocol and results indicate significant improvements in PTSD symptoms as well as outcomes related to self-harm and dissociation. These findings demonstrate the efficacy of combining DBT with PE for clients with comorbid BPD and PTSD and exemplify how complex clients with BPD who present with severe dissociation and self-harm behavior can safely and successfully receive treatment for PTSD.


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