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5 Ways Counselors Help Patients with Personality Disorders

How People With Personality Disorders Benefit from Professional Counseling and Therapy

  • Train Patients on Social Skills
  • Offer Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Provide Cognitive Therapy
  • Coordinate Care With a Psychiatrist
  • Administer Family Therapy

A person considering earning a degree in psychology, medicine or social work may want to know about these five ways counselors help patients with personality disorders. About 8 percent of American adults have a personality disorder, and those disorders can have a serious impact on their ability to build and maintain social and personal relationships. Knowing how counselors can help people with personality disorders is a good step in choosing a career path.

Related resource: The Top 30 Online Counseling Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)

1. Train Patients on Social Skills

People with personality disorders often lack appropriate social skills. They might avoid socializing with others. On the other hand, a person with dependent personality disorder cannot function unless they are in the presence of and taken care of by a particular person. Counselors offer training on developing and maintaining appropriate social skills.

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2. Offer Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy is the first of two types of therapies that counselors offer to people with borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder is the only one of the recognized personality disorders that have been shown to respond effectively to treatment. With dialectical behavior therapy, counselors help patients regulate their emotions. The result is a reduction in bouncing between extreme ranges of personality or emotional reactions. Patients also learn to practice mindfulness, which is recognizing a feeling without reacting to it.

3. Provide Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy is the second type of therapy that a counselor can provide to people who have borderline personality disorder. Research indicates that this type of therapy is also effective at treating and managing borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by unstable personal relationships. With cognitive therapy, the counselor helps the person get out of unhealthy thought patterns. The approach may help people with borderline personality disorder reduce their impulsive or reactive behaviors. Cognitive therapy also helps people revisit what happened during their childhood and recognize and eliminate their dysfunctional beliefs.

4. Coordinate Care With a Psychiatrist

Counselors may also coordinate the care of people with personality disorders. A person with a severe personality disorder often uses prescription medications to treat associated symptoms, such as anxiety and depression. These prescriptions are usually written by a psychiatrist. A person with a severe personality disorder may also need to be hospitalized in order to get their condition under control. The counselor might work with the psychiatrist in order to coordinate the inpatient and outpatient follow-up services for the patient.

5. Administer Family Therapy

According to the Mayo Clinic, family therapy is a service provided by counselors and therapists in order to help families communicate better when there is a member who has a personality disorder. The counselor may conduct both family sessions and individual sessions in order to facilitate a healing process between the person who has a personality disorder and their closest family members. This could promote healthier relationships in the family unit.

Personality disorders are notorious for being difficult to treat, and people with them often avoid seeking treatment in the first place. Awareness of how counselors can help people with personality disorders could motivate a person who is affected by one of these conditions to take action and seek evaluation or therapy. Understanding these five ways counselors help patients with personality disorders is also helpful to anyone who works in healthcare or social services.