• psychotherapy;
  • borderline personality disorder;
  • patient dropouts;
  • meta-analysis

Barnicot K, Katsakou C, Marougka S, Priebe S. Treatment completion in psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder – a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Objective:  Psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder (BPD) has been associated with problematically low treatment completion rates.

Method:  PsycInfo and Medline were systematically searched to identify studies providing information on treatment completion in psychotherapy models that have been shown to be effective for BPD. A meta-analysis of treatment completion rates and a narrative analysis of factors predicting dropout were conducted.

Results:  Forty-one studies were included, with completion rates ranging from 36% to 100%– a substantial between-study heterogeneity. Random effects meta-analyses yielded an overall completion rate of 75% (95% CI: 68–82%) for interventions of <12 months duration, and 71% (95% CI: 65–76%) for longer interventions. Egger’s test for publication bias was significant for both analyses (P ≤ 0.01). Study characteristics such as treatment model and treatment setting did not explain between-study heterogeneity. In individual studies, factors predicting dropout status included commitment to change, the therapeutic relationship and impulsivity, whilst sociodemographics were consistently non-predictive.

Conclusion:  Borderline personality disorder should no longer be associated with high rates of dropout from treatment. However, the substantial variation in completion rates between studies remains unexplained. Research on the psychological processes involved in dropping out of treatment could further improve dropout rates.