Many of you know of the existence of the Family Connections program. Run under the auspices of NEABPD, The National Education Alliance for BPD, Family Connections is a program for family members of people who have BPD. Every year end, my co-facilitator and I gear up for a new Family Connections group starting in January.
It is always a moving experience to meet the new group members. These family members have tried everything they can think of to help their loved one with BPD, and often, it just doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. When they arrive at the first group session, they are often frazzled, exhausted, dispirited, and fearful of the future. Over the course of 12 weeks, many of them start to have a little hope. We teach them about BPD, and they start to realize that the behavior that their loved one engages in is a result of a disorder, not a willful or malicious desire.
We teach them some of the DBT skills, and they suddenly have new tools at their disposal. They come into the group and say things like, “I tried what you suggested – and it worked!” They are surprised, pleased, and – most importantly – empowered in a new, life altering way. They say things like, “You know, I tried using that skill with my boss – and it worked!” So they are able to generalize the skills to other relationships in their world. They learn to be less hard on themselves when the skills don’t work with their loved ones. And they use the skills to ease, or at least tolerate, their own distress.
Many of them start to do things for themselves, things that they have put aside for their care-taking duties: going on dates, and taking vacations. You can see the result: their bodies are slightly more relaxed, and they remember the capacity for laughter, especially at the absurdity that we sometimes experience as humans in relationships of all kinds. Humor is such a powerful tool! In the beginning of my journey down this BPD road, I remember watching Dr. Linehan speak, and thinking to myself that her ability to be irreverent, and to laugh, was key to her ability to address this disorder, which can seem so powerfully destructive. So please, remember the DBT protocols, and do your very best to comply with them. And don’t forget to be irreverent, when needed. I’m always more effective when I follow that part of the protocol.
For more information on the Family Connections program, or to refer your clients to sign up for the group, see the NEABPD website at: https://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.org/family-connections/”