Date of Award

Summer 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Saunders, Stephen M.

Second Advisor

Russo, Joan C.

Third Advisor

De St. Aubin, Ed


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a severe emotion regulation disorder that, according to the biosocial theory, is developed and maintained through transactions that occur between biologically vulnerable persons and their environment. The family members of persons with BPD may experience many deleterious consequences as a result of their relative's illness, including both objective and subjective forms of burden. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was originally developed as a comprehensive treatment for persons with BPD, and new programs designed specifically to treat family members are emerging. These programs aim to help family members cope with their own stressors, as well as help them to learn more effective ways to communicate and interact with their relatives with mental illness. The effectiveness of a family-oriented DBT program called Family Skills was evaluated. It was hypothesized that family members' scores on the Beck Depression Inventory - II (BDI - II), Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS), Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), and Burden Assessment Scale (BAS) would decrease from pre-treatment to post-treatment. Descriptive analyses indicated great variability in the functioning of family members at pre-treatment, with females generally reporting more symptomology than males. Statistical analyses showed that depression, hopelessness, and interpersonal sensitivity significantly decreased from pre-treatment to post-treatment. The clinical significance of individual participant changes was also examined, and clinically significant changes were noted in depression, hopelessness, and interpersonal sensitivity. These findings are consistent with previous research in this area and provide further information regarding the utility of family-oriented DBT programs. The theoretical underpinnings of these changes are discussed, and suggestions for future research are offered.