Compassion for personality disorders


Self-criticism, or the tendency to hold negative self views, is understood as a transdiagnostic factor for people living with personality disorders. It often predicts less effective psychotherapy outcomes and often represents a defining feature of depression for those with personality disorders. Although some psychotherapies recognize how self-criticism plays an important role, some treatments fail to directly address underlying self-criticism features. 

The Study

A research group in the Netherlands conducted a study in which twelve patients with personality disorders were included in a 12-week group compassion-focused therapy (CFT), in addition to the standard dialectical behavioral and schema group therapy (DBT/ST). The participants were randomly assigned to wait different periods before starting the additional therapy to control for the potential effects of natural improvement over time. During the CFT group therapy, participants learned a range of skills including experiential exercises, psychoeducation around emotional regulation, self-compassion and mindfulness skills, as well as how compassion relates to self-and others. 

The Results

Measures taken immediately after the conclusion of the CFT showed that participants did not decrease self-critical beliefs, however they did improve in a follow up assessment. These improvements in self-compassion, self-criticism, and personality disorder severity represent a promising development in the treatment of personality disorders after only an additional 12 week course of treatment. Whereas personality disorders typically require a longer treatment, this Compassion-Focused group Therapy represents an effective means to target the prominent features of personality disorders. As compassion-based interventions continue to be empirically validated, scientists and therapists alike are beginning to understand how compassion can be leveraged to improve mental health outcomes. 

Read the full study here.

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