This article presents a qualitative investigation of the perspectives and experiences of recovery from borderline personality disorder from six individuals who were treated with comprehensive dialectical behavior therapy. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews, transcribed, and coded using a six-step analysis process. Six primary themes emerged: (1) belief about recovery, (2) current experience of self, (3) facets of recovery, (4) motivating factors, (5) external supports to recovery, and (6) characteristics required for recovery. Overall, the findings took a dialectical form in which participants often described conflicting experiences (e.g., feeling recovered while also continuing to experience heightened emotional sensitivity). We conclude that the themes presented in this article represent broad domains related to the meaning of recovery from BPD, and recognize that the relative importance of each domain is best determined by the individual.


Borderline Personality Disorder, Recovery, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Thematic Analysis

Author Bio(s)

Carla D. Chugani, PhD, LPC is a postdoctoral scholar and licensed professional counselor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine. She received her MA in Mental Health Counseling from Florida Gulf Coast University and her PhD in Counselor Education from University of South Florida. Dr. Chugani’s clinical and research interests focus on college student mental health, adapting dialectical behavior therapy for college counseling centers, and prevention and early intervention approaches for alcohol misuse and suicidality in college students. Dr. Chugani can be contacted at carla.chugani@chp.edu.

Ashley Seiler, MSW, LSW, is a recent graduate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. She is currently working at a nonprofit for homeless youth in the city of Pittsburgh.

Tina Goldstein, PhD is a licensed psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine/Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic where she also serves as Director of Psychotherapy Training in Pediatric Mood Disorders and Co-Director of the Psychology Internship Training Program. She received her BA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Goldstein’s clinical and research interests focus on understanding and treating youth with, and at-risk for, mood disorders, and suicide.


C. D. C. wishes to thank Dr. Jennifer Wolgemuth for her mentorship, guidance, and support throughout the conduct of this project. Funding: This research project was supported by a grant from the Herman B. Lustigman Charitable Foundation. Dr. Chugani is currently supported by an NSRA T32 training grant (T32HD087162, PI: Miller). Declaration of Conflict of Interest: C.D.C. receives compensation for consulting services related to implementation of DBT programs.

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