Getting to the Root of It: Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Through Trauma-Focused Therapies

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) remains one of the most elusive mental health disorders in terms of effective treatment, creating profound emotional distress for both those who suffer from it and their loved ones. Many people living with BPD feel a sense of hopelessness not only due to their psychological illness, but as the result of the pervasive attitude saying BPD can seldom be helped due to lack of compliance and low success rates for treatment. Although it is true that a significant proportion of people with BPD may resist treatment, even those who recognize their disorder and want to get better may be reluctant to devote time and energy to therapeutic practices that do not effectively address their needs. Going beyond traditional Borderline Personality Disorder treatment, and integrating more modern, personalized therapeutic approaches that get to the root of psychological distress can help improve outcomes and engage you in ways that are meaningful and relevant to your situation, empowering you make purposeful progress towards recovery.

The origins of Borderline Personality Disorder are largely unknown, appearing to result from a complex and unpredictable mix of biological, hereditary, and experiential factors. However, there is a common thread amongst those living with BPD: trauma. About 70% of people with BPD report experiencing physical or sexual abuse as children, often at the hands of their caretakers, disrupting the normal attachment process and coloring their understanding of both themselves and the world around them. The lack of emotional regulation, low self-esteem, and intense fear of abandonment you experience as the result of your BPD may be a direct result of childhood traumas that fragmented the typical psychosocial development process–and specialized trauma-focused treatment can be a vital part of recovery. While Dialectical Behavior Therapy has long been regarded as the gold standard, there is growing recognition of the need for integrating additional therapeutic modalities specifically targeted toward trauma in the treatment of BPD.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was designed to help people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder access and process traumatic memories in a way that engages their self-healing abilities. Extreme distress can interfere with the way the brain processes information, creating emotional and functional disturbances and locking you into maladaptive patterns of destructive thinking that are difficult to break out of. In EMDR, a highly trained therapist directs your eye movements while asking you recall a traumatic event and periodically checking in with you to explore what you are experiencing emotionally and physically. As the session progresses, you will be asked to shift focus and recall more pleasant memories. This combination of eye movements and recollection allows you to increase your distress tolerance while desensitizing you to the trauma and allowing your brain to reprocess disturbances in a healing way. Incorporating EMDR in treatment for people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder can help relieve emotional and behavioral symptoms caused by traumatic experiences, and enhance self-regulation, stability, and self-awareness.

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Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing (SE) was developed by Dr. Peter Levine, and based on the belief that unresolved traumatic energy can become trapped in the body following a distressing event and prevents you from effectively moving forward. Dr. Levine observed that animals do not appear to retain trauma in the natural world, and attributed this to the discharge of excess energy after a disturbing event in the form of shaking, trembling, running, and bucking. In the human world, this cycle of energy buildup and release is often disrupted, leaving the body in a traumatized state. In an SE session, the therapist guides you to become aware of your physical responses and sensations as you discuss memories and feelings which may or may not be directly related to your trauma. As you become cognizant of the interplay between your emotional and somatic state, you may be asked to engage in physical movements to help release destructive energy keeping you from effectively healing. By fortifying the mind-body connection, SE can augment your self-understanding while giving you invaluable tools for emotional and physical regulation and releasing you from the grip of trauma.

Healing from Trauma, Healing from BPD

Despite widespread narratives to the contrary, BPD is treatable, and both remission and recovery are possible. This is particularly true as mental health professionals recognize the potential of incorporating trauma-focused therapies in treatment plans to create more powerful, effective therapeutic experiences for clients. Forward-thinking programs such as Bridges to Recovery already integrate both EMDR and Somatic Experiencing as part of a comprehensive approach to providing the most modern, effective treatment for people suffering from BPD. By getting to the root of your trauma, you can gain control of your symptoms and develop greater insight into how your traumatic history informs your current emotional and behavioral state. With the support of compassionate professionals, you can repair the damage of early childhood distress and unlock your potential to create a full, balanced, and authentic life.

Bridges to Recovery offers innovative, evidence-based therapies for people living with Borderline Personality Disorder. Please contact us at any time to learn more about our treatment program and how we can help you or your loved one on the path to recovery.