Treatment & Therapy

Transference-Focused Psychotherapy for BPD

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Have you ever had that experience of feeling really sick, but then you arrive at the doctor and suddenly feel much better and display no symptoms? In situations like these, it’s hard to describe or prove to your physician just how ill you are. This can leave you feeling frustrated and as though the doctor discounted your concerns. 

Similar situations can arise in psychotherapy. Whether it’s because you are unconsciously grateful to be getting help in a therapy session or afraid of getting into the real issues at hand, your mood experiences a little lift and your mental barricades come up during therapy. This can make you relate to your therapist better and even put a better spin on the events in your life than you intended. Your therapist, in turn, may not see anything out of the ordinary going on in your life and not be able to offer you the help you need for the problems you actually have. 

That’s where Transference-Focused Psychotherapy can really save the day, particularly if you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Developed by Drs. Kernberg, Clarkin, and Yeomans, this type of therapy isn’t like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which are common methods of therapy for people with BPD. 

Transference-Focused Psychotherapy is an evidence-based treatment that does not make learning new skills or thoughts a primary focus. In other words, your therapist will not just provide you tools to redirect your life. Instead, your therapist will actually experience the problem with you and help you to focus on the moment at hand instead of the past. The goal of Transference-Focused Psychotherapy is to help you create a more stable and realistic sense of self while helping you improve your life skills and interpersonal relationships. 

What Is Transference-Focused Psychotherapy? 

To participate in Transference-Focused Psychotherapy is in some ways like going to the doctor with a stomachache, only instead of your doctor ordering an x-ray, they jump inside your body and observe your pain firsthand. How does this work? 

First, you and your therapist have to become very comfortable with one another. Over time, you will be encouraged to treat your therapist just like any other significant person in your life. This way, the therapist can experience what it is like to really relate to you – the good, the bad, and the ugly. As therapy progresses, your therapist will get a better sense of how you see yourself based on how you interact on a deep and honest level. 

Since the pain of Borderline Personality Disorder is often caused by a very low estimation of self-worth, the therapist can point out, in a nonjudgmental way, how you might be contributing to problems in your relationships. For instance, you may make references to your lack of ability in subtle ways when relating to others. While this may be below the threshold of consciousness for you, especially if it has become habit, your therapist may notice it right away. Once you are aware of how you present yourself, you can begin to work on changing.  

Why Transference-Focused Psychotherapy Works with BPD  

If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, you may have noticed that you have a tendency to manipulate people or say something very different from what you mean. These tendencies can impede therapy. However, if you expose these tendencies to your therapist through Transference-Focused Psychotherapy, you stand a greater chance of getting better because Transference-Focused Psychotherapy targets the symptoms of BPD.

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