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What’s it like – An occupational therapist’s experience of stigma and BPD

“My colleagues don’t touch it… I won’t put any borderlines on my caseload, are you crazy?”.

“You are a burden”

“You are doing this (self-harming) to hurt your family” – GP

“How do I treat Borderline Personality Disorder? I try to find another clinician (Laughter)” (Sulzer, 2015, p. 85)

What’s it like being treated for having BPD?

As a patient with BPD, the experience was very shameful. People often roll their eyes or deny us access to treatments. We’re blamed for our behaviors and labeled with negative stereotypes. Our illness is often not seen as legitimate, which can make seeking help even more challenging. And too frequently we are seen as the problem without considering how the traumatic and chaotic environment is influencing use to act in a way to survive.

As Clinicians, we are taught to take a client-centered approach to therapy, which involves listening to and understanding our client’s goals, values, and interests. However, as a patient, it can be challenging to open up and share our struggles with a stranger. We’re often expected to quickly divulge our history of abuse, past suicide attempts, and self-harm to someone we’ve just met. This process can be insensitive and leave us feeling more vulnerable and alone.

As patients, we can feel like we’re on a conveyor belt, constantly meeting new faces and having to disclose our innermost thoughts. It’s exhausting and frustrating, and we may wonder if our clinicians really understand how draining therapy can be. We may also question whether we’re expected to trust our clinicians without really knowing them or whether we’re labeled as “non-compliant” or “difficult” when we don’t do what’s expected of us.

Overall, it’s important for clinicians to approach patients with BPD and other mental health conditions with compassion and understanding. Building trust takes time, and it’s important to recognize that therapy can be a draining and challenging process for patients. Trust is not built in one session and it takes an open and active therapist to help start the process.

Needing support with developing a relationship with your participants?

We provide training that is grounded in lived experience. and evidenced-based research Laura our lead OT is completing her PhD in BPD and Complex trauma. We also have many printed resources to support therapists in collaborating and partnering with people who experience complex trauma

Join our Free BPD Network
This network is dedicated to creating empowering discussions on Borderline Personality Disorder and Complex Trauma. We focus on sharing holistic ways of working collaboratively with this population. Meetings include guest presenters, panel discussions, case study discussions, journal article discussions, reflections on models and theoretical approaches and trauma-sensitive research methodologies.

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