Family Education / Support Groups

 Family Educational Programs

A growing number of educational programs are being conducted for people with borderline disorder and their families. These are often co-sponsored by community organizations working with the assistance of consumer and family organizations such as the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD), the Treatment and Research Advancements National Association for Personality Disorder (TARA), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

A recent addition to the therapeutic opportunities for family members of people with borderline disorder has been the introduction of family educational and training programs.

Family Connections

The family education program, Family Connections (FC), is available in multiple locations throughout the US, and at several locations in Canada, Europe and the UK. It operates under the auspices of NEA-BPD with research funding from the National Institute of Mental Health. Experienced family members co-lead the 12-week manualized series of sessions for other families. These sessions provide participants with the most current information and research about borderline disorder, teach DBT and family coping skills, and provide an opportunity to develop a support network.

Research documents a reduction in family member depression, burden, and grief, and an increase in coping skills. No registration fee is required, but in some locations a donation to cover costs of the course materials is suggested.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has recently designated borderline disorder as a “priority population.” In doing so, NAMI has now extended its popular 12 week Family Education Program to include this disorder. The course is taught by trained NAMI volunteers in every state in the country. It provides a broad range of information essential to those caring for loved ones with borderline and other serious mental disorders.

Family Training Workshop

TARA sponsors an eight session DBT family training workshop in New York City and other cities across the country. The main goals of the program are similar to that provided by NEA-BPD. Each training cycle is limited to sixteen members, and a registration fee is required.

Support Groups

In some communities, groups of people with borderline disorder and family members meet on a regular basis, without a therapist or trained and skilled group leader, to help one another. Such support groups typically do not charge members a fee and can be very beneficial for the reasons cited above for therapist-assisted group therapy.

There are three types of support groups:

  • groups for the person with borderline disorder
  • groups for their family members
  • groups for psychotherapists

Although it may be helpful, participation in such groups should be approached with caution by the person with borderline disorder or family members. Considerable harm can be done if one or more individuals in the group act in an angry, manipulative, malicious, or otherwise inappropriate and destructive way toward another group member or the group as a whole. Without a skilled leader or facilitator present to step in to handle the situation promptly and properly, a member of the group, and even the group itself, may be exposed to significant trauma.

Prior to joining a support group, it is wise to seek recommendations about groups in your community from your nearest NAMI Chapter, or from mental health professionals working with patients with borderline disorder. In addition, it may be helpful to request information from members of such groups before joining.

Finally, Appelbaum (see Supportive Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy) has wisely suggested that a support group for therapists, now utilized at a few research centers, be employed more broadly to enhance the treatment of borderline disorder. Because the field of therapy for borderline disorder is in its early stages of development, and because the work is delicate and demanding, such groups would stimulate much-needed training and progress, and increase availability of experienced therapists.


In summary, there are a number of different levels of care, medications, and individual and group therapy approaches that can be utilized to help you gain increasing control over your life. The treatment plan that works best for another patient may not be appropriate or work well for you. Therefore, it is very important that you work closely with your psychiatrist and other mental health professionals to formulate that treatment plan which will produce the best results under your specific circumstances.