Helpful tips for working with BPD clients

As clinicians, we are trained to be client-centered in our approach. Meaning the clients’ goals, values and interests are the driving force behind the interventions we provide. This obviously requires clinicians to listen and clients to open up and disclose their struggles with us. In my journey, I have met many mental health professions from all different disciplines. However, the one thing that makes me feel safe in opening up to you is whether I feel I know and trust you.

As a patient, we are too often expected to quickly share our life story with you, our history of abuse, past suicide attempts and self-harm. All which many of us are ashamed to disclose and to someone we have just met. If this process is done in an insensitive and matter of fact way, it can leave us feeling even more vulnerable and alone. So how can we help our clients feel safe and open up? The professionals who have had the greatest effect on me have been those I have got to know myself. Who have shared a little piece of their life with me and made me feel that I am a person and not another ‘patient’ on their list. The best memories I have of my admissions are the times when I have been able to listen to my nurse’s story and laugh together as we shared why he/she wanted to become a nurse, what their interests are, their pets, and about their culture. In sharing a small piece of your life with me, it’s like a visible connection is formed from my soul to yours and I can see that you, just like me, are a person. A person who cares to spend their time with me and not for the sake of ticking some mental checklist off in your mind. I hate seeking help from people when I am admitted to hospital. I find it really unhelpful when someone I barely know says ‘I am your nurse this afternoon, if you need anything come get me’. Those are the times I feel so alone and isolated in hospital.

I have learnt that the clinicians that don’t feel afraid to share with me and don’t think I’m ‘dangerous’ are the one’s I will seek out for help.

As patients we often feel like we are on a conveyor belt. Each day are new faces, new people we must open up to and disclose our inner most thoughts, which all starts again the next day.

It wasn’t until I became a patient that I realised how strange it is for me to be in the opposite role no longer asking the questions but giving the answers to a stranger. As clinicians we should feel privileged to partner with people who are in the depths of despair. As a client, I want to partner with you. But this requires trust and a mutual understanding of each other, which often starts with you. I encourage you to not be afraid of sharing a small part of yourself with your clients. In doing so, your treatment and advice is going to be more accepted, understood and appreciated.

Think about what you feel comfortable talking to your patients about e.g. pets, holidays, children, culture, your studies, your mistakes in life and importantly what made your work in mental health. It will make a huge difference to your clients and perhaps your own work satisfaction.

Until then… Have a day,   

Love Laura

Founder of OT for BPD

Published by Beyond Personality Disorders

Founder of My Potential Mental health Advocate; Occupational Therapy Teacher and Researcher Australia “As an occupational therapist diagnosed with BPD I will use this page to share about the various interventions and strategies that are helpful to those with BPD. I will also share about the positive and sometimes challenging approaches that health professionals have used in my treatment in emergency, inpatient, outpatient and community settings. I hope that by sharing my lived experience I can help improve the experience of those struggling to understand Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD) and also support those living with BPD and other mental health challenges Most importantly we will share how occupation can powerfully help change lives!" Laura

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