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Two types of mentalisation-based treatment (MBT) have been developed and empirically evaluated for borderline personality disorder (BPD): day hospital MBT (MBT-DH) and intensive out-patient MBT (MBT-IOP). No trial has yet compared their efficacy.
To compare the efficacy of MBT-DH and MBT-IOP 18 months after start of treatment. MBT-DH was hypothesised to be superior to MBT-IOP because of its higher treatment intensity.
In a multicentre randomised controlled trial (Nederlands Trial Register: NTR2292) conducted at three sites in the Netherlands, patients with BPD were randomly assigned to MBT-DH (n = 70) or MBT-IOP (n = 44). The primary outcome was symptom severity (Brief Symptom Inventory). Secondary outcome measures included borderline symptomatology, personality functioning, interpersonal functioning, quality of life and self-harm. Patients were assessed every 6 months from baseline to 18 months after start of treatment. Data were analysed using multilevel modelling based on intention-to-treat principles.
Significant improvements were found on all outcome measures, with moderate to very large effect sizes for both groups. MBT-DH was not superior to MBT-IOP on the primary outcome measure, but MBT-DH showed a clear tendency towards superiority on secondary outcomes.
Although MBT-DH was not superior to MBT-IOP on the primary outcome measure despite its greater treatment intensity, MBT-DH showed a tendency to be more effective on secondary outcomes, particularly in terms of relational functioning. Patients receiving MBT-DH and MBT-IOP, thus, seem to follow different trajectories of change, which may have important implications for clinical decision-making. Longer-term follow-up and cost-effectiveness considerations may ultimately determine the optimal intensity of specialised treatments such as MBT for patients with BPD.
Declaration of interest
P.L. and D.L.B. have been involved in the training and dissemination of MBT.
Day hospital mentalization-based treatment (MBT-DH) is a promising treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD) but its evidence base is still limited. This multi-site randomized trial compared the efficacy of MBT-DH delivered by a newly set-up service v. specialist treatment as usual (S-TAU) tailored to the individual needs of patients, and offered by a well-established treatment service.
Two mental healthcare institutes in The Netherlands participated in the study. Patients who met DSM-IV criteria for BPD and had a score of ⩾20 on the borderline personality disorder severity index (BPDSI) were randomly allocated to MBT-DH (N = 54) or S-TAU (N = 41). The primary outcome variable was the total score on the BPDSI. Secondary outcome variables included symptom severity, quality of life, and interpersonal functioning. Data were collected at baseline and every 6 months until 18-month follow-up, and were analyzed using multilevel analyses based on intention-to-treat principles.
Both treatments were associated with significant improvements in all outcome variables. MBT-DH was not superior to S-TAU on any outcome variable. MBT-DH was associated with higher acceptability in BPD patients compared v. S-TAU, reflected in significantly higher early drop-out rates in S-TAU (34%) v. MBT-DH (9%).
MBT-DH delivered by a newly set-up service is as effective as specialist TAU in The Netherlands in the treatment of BPD at 18-month follow-up. Further research is needed to investigate treatment outcomes in the longer term and the cost-effectiveness of these treatments.
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