Combined group and individual schema therapy for borderline personality disorder: A pilot study

Veronique Dickhaut, Arnoud Arntz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and Objectives: Schema Therapy (ST) is a highly effective treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In a group format, delivery costs could be reduced and recovery processes catalyzed by specific use of group processes. As patients may also need individual attention, we piloted the combination of individual and group-ST. Methods: Two cohorts of BPD patients (N = 8, N = 10) received a combination of weekly group-ST and individual ST for 2 years, with 6 months extra individual ST if indicated. Therapists were experienced in individual ST but not in group-ST. The second cohort of therapists was trained in group-ST by specialists. This made it possible to explore the training effects. Assessments of BPD manifestations and secondary measures took place every 6 months up to 2.5 years. Change over time and differences between cohorts were analyzed with mixed regression. Results: Dropout from treatment was 33.3% in Year 1, and 5.6% in Year 2, without cohort differences. BPD manifestations reduced significantly, with large effect sizes, and 77% recovery at 30 months. Large improvements were also found on general psychopathological symptoms, schema (mode) measures, quality of life, and happiness. Cohort-2 tended to improve faster, but there were no differences between cohorts in the long term. Limitations: The study was uncontrolled, training effects might have been non-specific, and the sample size was relatively small. Conclusions: Combined group individual ST can be an effective treatment, but dropout might be higher than from individual ST. Addition of specialized group-ST seems to speed up recovery compared to only individual ST.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-251
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • CBT
  • Schema therapy
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Clinical trial

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