Both 'being with' and 'doing to': Borderline personality disorder and the integration of humanistic values in contemporary therapy practice

Edith Steffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Content and focus: Taking one of the key dimensions of counselling psychology as a focal point, namely its ‘humanistic value base’, this article explores how humanistic values can be integrated into therapeutic work with clients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in contemporary healthcare settings. It starts by outlining borderline personality disorder as a diagnostic category, highlighting some of the associated controversies discussed in the literature, followed by a consideration of clients’ perspectives as presented by qualitative research. It then considers key humanistic values relevant to the philosophical basis of counselling psychology and discusses some of the dilemmas that may arise when applying these values to practice. Finally, it examines potential overlaps and conflicts between humanistic principles and one particular therapeutic approach for working with borderline presentations, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).
Conclusions: While a humanistic perspective on borderline personality disorder accords with the philosophical basis of counselling psychology, adopting a purely humanistic stance could sometimes be counter-productive when working with this client group. However, when skilfully interwoven with more directive strategies as in dialectical behaviour therapy, humanistically-informed relational work may be a key ingredient in working effectively with this client group. While such integration may be problematic, the dilemma could be fruitfully approached from different perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-71
JournalCounselling Psychology Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • behaviourism, borderline personality disorder, counselling psychology, dialectical behaviour therapy, humanistic values, therapeutic relationship

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