Borderline Personality Disorder Assessment Process for Diagnosis

Considerations for BPD assessment

Verywell / Laura Porter

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If you think that you (or a loved one) may have borderline personality disorder (BPD), it's important to get an accurate diagnosis, which requires a BPD assessment. Did you know that BPD symptoms often overlap those of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and major depression? Following the steps below will keep you on track toward an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Find a Mental Health Professional

Finding the right mental health professional is critical to getting the treatment you need. First and foremost, it's important to choose a therapist who can practice independently. The following are some professionals who can do a BPD assessment, provide a diagnosis, and treat BPD:

  • Clinical psychologist (PhD/PsyD)
  • Licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) 
  • Licensed clinical social worker (LSCW)
  • Licensed independent social worker (LISW)
  • Licensed mental health counselor (LMHC)
  • Licensed professional counselor (LPC)
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Psychiatrist (MD)

It's also crucial to choose a therapist who has real-world experience diagnosing and treating people with BPD. So before you make your first call to a therapist, go online to review their education, training, and experience. When deciding on a therapist to treat your BPD, it's best to look for one with the following qualities:

Having this information before you call means you don't have to ask about it when you schedule your appointment.

If you have health insurance, consider asking your insurance company to give you the names of nearby mental health professionals with the expertise you're seeking who also accept your insurance. If you don't have health insurance, you may qualify for public assistance programs or services through your state or region's department of mental health or social services.

Schedule an Assessment

Once you have a list of BPD therapists who meet your baseline requirements, start at the top and call to schedule an initial consultation. Many mental health professionals offer a brief free consultation over the phone, though these calls typically needed to be scheduled in advance.

Let the therapist know that you are interested in an assessment and treatment. Describe some of your symptoms. You can even mention that you think you may have BPD. Take the opportunity to ask some initial questions. Try to get a sense of how comfortable you feel talking to this person. You can also confirm what they charge for a BPD assessment and whether they accept your insurance.

Once you've spoken to a few therapists, pick the one who best suits your needs and schedule an assessment.

Start the Assessment Process

When you arrive for your first therapy session, it's normal to feel nervous and uncomfortable, particularly if you are new to therapy. It's not easy to meet a new person and start sharing private details about your life. Keep in mind, however, that the more direct and honest you are during your BPD assessment, the more you will get out of it.

Your BPD assessment may take one session or several sessions. Your therapist will tell you how long the assessment will take and what types of tests or interviews they'll employ, if any.

Different providers use different tools to conduct an assessment. Generally, you can expect the therapist to ask questions about your current and past symptoms, family and work history, and current life situation. Some therapists will also give you a short questionnaire to fill out and/or administer a psychological test, which is typically longer and asks more questions. You can also ask any questions you may have.

Borderline Personality Disorder Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.

Mind Doc Guide

Get a Diagnosis

You'll probably receive a diagnosis after your BPD assessment. If your therapist needs more information before making a diagnosis, they may refer you to a specialist or your primary care doctor for further assessment. Your therapist might desire a second opinion for any number of reasons, such as:

  • Your symptoms may suggest the possibility of a non-BPD diagnosis, and they may want to get another specialist's evaluation.
  • If you've had one or more serious head injuries, you may be referred for a specialist's assessment of whether some or all of your symptoms are due to the physical injury rather than a mental health disorder.
  • You may be referred to your primary care doctor for an assessment of any other medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

It's more likely, however, that you'll receive a diagnosis at the end of your BPD assessment. Your therapist will also explain more about the problems your symptoms are causing and recommend treatment options.

Your therapist may provide some or all of your treatment depending on their qualifications. If necessary, they may refer you for part of your therapy to another mental health professional with special expertise or the ability to prescribe medication if they cannot.

A Word From Verywell

It is often challenging to accurately diagnose BPD. Many of the symptoms overlap with other mood disorders, and BPD doesn’t look the same in everyone.

An experienced mental health professional can help determine whether your symptoms indicate BPD or another mood disorder. Most importantly, they can recommend treatment that can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Biskin RS, Paris J. Diagnosing borderline personality disorderCMAJ. 2012;184(16):1789–1794. doi:10.1503/cmaj.090618

Additional Reading
  • Groth-Marnat, G. Handbook of Psychological Assessment. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2003.
  • National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (2016). About BPD.

By Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD
 Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University.