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Treating PTSD in suicidal and self-injuring women with borderline personality disorder: Development and preliminary evaluation of a Dialectical Behavior Therapy Prolonged Exposure Protocol

Melanie S. Harned, Kathryn E. Korslund, Edna B. Foa & Marsha M. Linehan

Behaviour Research and Therapy;  Volume 50, Issue 6, June 2012, Pages 381–386



This study focused on the development and pilot testing of a protocol based on Prolonged Exposure (PE) that can be added to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to treat PTSD in suicidal and self-injuring individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Women with BPD, PTSD, and recent and/or imminent serious intentional self-injury (n = 13) received one year of DBT with the DBT PE Protocol, plus three months of follow-up assessment. The treatment was associated with significant reductions in PTSD, with the majority of patients no longer meeting criteria for PTSD at post-treatment (71.4% of DBT PE Protocol completers, 60.0% of the intent-to-treat sample). A minority of patients (27.3%) engaged in intentional self-injury during the study. Improvements were also found for suicidal ideation, dissociation, trauma-related guilt cognitions, shame, anxiety, depression, and social adjustment. There was no evidence that the DBT PE Protocol led to exacerbations of intentional self-injury urges or behaviors, PTSD, treatment dropout, or crisis service use. Overall, the results indicate that this integrated BPD and PTSD treatment is feasible to implement within one year of treatment, highly acceptable to patients and therapists, safe to administer, and shows promise as an effective intervention for PTSD in this complex and high-risk patient population.



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