Qualities of a Great Therapist for BPD

Woman talking with therapist during therapy session

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If you are coping with borderline personality disorder (BPD), finding the right therapist is essential to your health and well-being. Not every therapist is capable of treating BPD and you may not click with the first healthcare provider you meet. It's important that you keep looking for the right person, as you will be spending a lot of time with them.

This article will discuss the qualities to look for in a BPD therapist and how effective therapy is for this condition.


How to Choose the Right Therapist

Types of Therapy for BPD

Several effective therapy options for BPD exist, including:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT was created specifically to treat borderline personality disorder. This form of therapy focuses on teaching you how to cope with and regulate strong emotions.
  • Mentalization-based therapy: Mentalization-based therapy aims to teach you how to see your mental state, thoughts, and emotions as separate from your actions.
  • Schema-focused therapy: A "schema" is a broad pattern of thinking that influences how we relate to the world around us. Schema-focused therapy tries to replace maladaptive schema developed during childhood with more constructive views.
  • Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP): In TFP, the therapist works to understand your feelings about other important relationships in your life. They use that information to help you strengthen your relationships.

When looking for the right therapist for BPD, you may want to focus on professionals who specialize in one of the above approaches. For some people, combining one of these forms of therapy with medication offers the most relief from their BPD symptoms.


Several forms of therapy may be effective at treating BPD. Each approach offers different benefits meant to help you cope with the symptoms of the condition.

Your Therapist Should Have Experience With BPD

First and foremost, it is important that you choose a therapist who is licensed to practice independently. Look for qualifications after the person's name like:

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

Reputable psychologists and psychiatrists state their credentials up front. Look for a therapist trained in "talk therapy" who also has some knowledge of medication.

While only a licensed physician can prescribe medications, a certified clinician can identify the need for medications and can refer you to an appropriate doctor if necessary.

For people with BPD, it may be most beneficial to find someone who has experience treating the condition, or someone who is under the supervision of an experienced therapist.

This is because BPD can be difficult to diagnose and requires specific treatment for the best results. People with BPD may also have other conditions and symptoms that need to be addressed, such as:

They Should Be Reassuring and Trustworthy

While you may be nervous for your first visit or two, your therapist should never make you feel scared or intimidated. Instead, they should provide you with a comforting, nurturing environment where you are able to relax.

The practitioner should not be authoritative or condescending, but engaging and encouraging. While you may talk about uncomfortable subjects during some sessions, you should always feel welcomed and accepted rather than shamed or judged.

Building a strong, trusting relationship with your therapist may be challenging if you are experiencing BPD symptoms. People with this condition sometimes have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with others, so it's important to find a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and secure.

It's also important to find someone who is experienced and skilled at navigating the relationship challenges associated with BPD. It's not uncommon to run into conflicts with your therapist during treatment, but they should never respond in a retaliatory or withdrawn manner.

Your Therapist Should Follow a Structure

People with BPD often benefit from a highly structured approach to therapy. A therapist who provides clear boundaries and structure can offer a sense of stability to people who are otherwise experiencing unpredictability in their lives.

A structured therapist will explain all aspects of your treatment in detail. They should take the time to talk about things like:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Fees and payment methods
  • Guidelines on contacting them
  • How long you can expect your treatment to last
  • How to cancel a session
  • Session length and frequency

They should also explain your responsibilities during therapy and give you a clear idea of what to expect. If either of you deviates from this plan, your therapist will likely bring those instances up for a discussion.

They Should Be Empathetic and Genuine

Your therapist's attitude and outlook can have an effect on your treatment. For the best results, look for someone who maintains empathy, authenticity, and positive regard for you during each session.

People with BPD may see additional benefits by working with a therapist who shows:

  • Adaptability
  • Composure
  • Optimism
  • Perseverance

They Should Use an Educational Approach

Therapy for BPD typically involves psychoeducation—or training that's intended to teach you new skills to help you manage and cope with your symptoms. While your therapist will determine the exact areas where you need support, they may focus on teaching you how to:

Part of this educational process will involve your therapist listening as you share your current experiences and talk about how you coped with challenges and stressors.

Your therapist's goal is to help you accept those experiences while offering you healthier, more positive coping skills you can use going forward.

Their Behavior Should Always Be Appropriate

Although the therapist should be flexible and approachable, it is important that they consistently maintain appropriate professional boundaries with every client. There should be no sexual overtures or innuendos, no business offers, and no touching that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Your therapist should always maintain a professional approach during your sessions. This may mean they firmly enforce boundaries or avoid responding emotionally to any conflicts that arise during treatment. Overall, your therapist should act as an emotionally stable presence.

Discretion is another part of behaving appropriately. Your therapist should always maintain confidentiality and be discrete, even if you run into them outside of your sessions. It is important that you do not end up feeling uncomfortable due to a coincidental meeting.

They Should Be Open-Minded and Receptive

It's important for your therapist to remain open-minded throughout your treatment.

Some therapists may pigeonhole you and your behaviors according to your diagnosis, rather than viewing you for who you are as a whole person. You want your therapist to allow you to be an individual and not assume that they know everything about you.

They should also be open to your feedback regarding therapy and how you perceive the progress you have made. Therapy can be difficult at times and you may become frustrated during treatment. By talking through these issues with your therapist, you can get a better idea of how you're doing and what the next steps will be.


Therapists need a variety of qualities to be effective at treating BPD, and finding someone who is experienced with the condition and in a therapeutic approach that is effective for treating it will offer the most benefit for you. You should also keep other factors in mind, like their attitude, your comfort level, and how they structure your treatment.

A Word From Verywell

By looking for a therapist with these qualities, you are more likely to develop a productive therapeutic relationship with your counselor that will give you the help, care, and guidance you need to navigate life with borderline personality disorder. With trust and open dialogue, you can make significant progress in your BPD treatment.

3 Sources
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.
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  2. Merced M. The beginning psychotherapist and borderline personality disorder: Basic treatment principles and clinical foci. Am J Psychother. 2015;69(3):241-268. doi:10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2015.69.3.241

  3. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Borderline personality disorder.

By Erin Johnston, LCSW
Erin Johnston, LCSW is a therapist, counselor, coach, and mediator with a private practice in Chicago, Illinois.