Specialized psychotherapies for adults with borderline personality disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Matthijs Oud*, Arnoud Arntz, Marleen Lm Hermens, Rogier Verhoef, Tim Kendall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


OBJECTIVE: Borderline personality disorder affects up to 2% of the population and is associated with poor functioning, low quality of life and increased mortality. Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice, but it is unclear whether specialized psychotherapies (dialectical behavior therapy, mentalization-based treatment, transference-focused therapy and schema therapy) are more effective than non-specialized approaches (e.g. protocolized psychological treatment, general psychiatric management). The aim of this systematic review is to investigate the effectiveness of these psychotherapies.

METHODS: PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, EMBASE and CENTRAL were searched from inception to November 2017. Included randomized controlled trials were assessed on risk of bias and outcomes were meta-analyzed. Confidence in the results was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation method. The review has been reported following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines.

RESULTS: A total of 20 studies with 1375 participants were included. Specialized psychotherapies, when compared to treatment as usual or community treatment by experts, were associated with a medium effect based on moderate quality evidence on overall borderline personality disorder severity (standardized mean difference = -0.59 [95% confidence interval: -0.90, -0.28]), and dialectical behavior therapy, when compared to treatment as usual, with a small to medium effect on self-injury (standardized mean difference = -0.40 [95% confidence interval: -0.66, -0.13]). Other effect estimates were often inconclusive, mostly due to imprecision.

CONCLUSION: There is moderate quality evidence that specialized psychotherapies are effective in reducing overall borderline personality disorder severity. However, further research should identify which patient groups profit most of the specialized therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-961
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number10
Early online date9 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Journal Article
  • borderline personality disorder
  • DBT
  • meta-analysis
  • Review
  • psychotherapy


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