• Borderline Personality Disorder;
  • Plan Analysis;
  • Case Formulation;
  • Interpersonal Relationships;
  • Qualitative Research

A comprehensive understanding of the patient's problems is essential for a constructive therapeutic behaviour, especially in borderline personality disorder (BPD) where difficult interpersonal patterns are persistent. In these circumstances, the use of an integrative case formulation approach such as Plan Analysis, developed by K. Grawe and F. Caspar, can be of help for therapy planning. The focus here is on instrumental relations between behaviours and the hypothetical Plans and motives ‘behind’ those behaviours.

The present qualitative study aimed at setting a prototypical Plan structure for n = 15 patients presenting a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, diagnosis of BPD using Plan Analysis. The first psychotherapeutic session of every outpatient was video-taped and evaluated according to the Plan Analysis procedure. Inter-rater reliability was established between two independent raters and was considered sufficient.

The detailed prototypical Plan structure of BPD showed two main tendencies: first, the important presence of support-seeking among these patients and second, the will to be in control and to protect oneself. This study confirms the existence of several core similarities in the functioning of patients with BPD. These findings are in line with earlier studies and expand the latter with the aim of contributing to the understanding of BPD psychopathology. Clinical implications are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Key Practitioner Message

  • Plan Analysis can especially be of help with patients who have difficult interpersonal patterns, as those presenting with BPD.
  • Two tendencies were found within BPD patients: (1) support-seeking and (2) control and self-protecting Plans.
  • Further research using Plan Analysis should focus on the identification and detail of emotions within BPD.