I recently sat with a young lady who was in treatment for borderline personality disorder. This disorder is known for creating disruption in emotional regulation, distress tolerance skills, and interpersonal distress. Despite this student’s struggles, I was fascinated by her ability to increase and understand the skills she was learning in her Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group. Because she was learning these skills quickly, she began to improve in her relationships and also in her academic learning. There was something different about the way this student approached her challenges.

How Mindset Affects Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

A Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, helped me understand what set this student apart, what helps people find success in life. The concept she talks about is mindset. In her reports and findings, she explains the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. She discusses our skewed focus on talent and ability versus grit and growth mindset. Research on brain plasticity demonstrates that students with a growth mindset, although many have dealt with previous struggles, perform better than their fixed mindset peers because they continue to work and try. They have also shown increases in working memory, which increases students’ capacity to grow and develop. Dweck has broken down the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset in the table below.
Using Mindset in treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.

But the question remains: How can I help my child or student develop healthy mindsets? How can I help them build a positive mental framework for the future? What do I do if my child has a fixed mindset? Dweck teaches that the way we challenge and praise our students and children has a big impact on helping them develop these mindsets. Her findings indicate the need to give process-focused praise, or in other words, praising the person for his/her determination and how he/she approached the task or learning versus his/her talent, intellect and speed of completing the task.
In conclusion, our children face a variety of challenges, anything from learning disabilities to severe mental illness. However, here at Sunrise, we know that there is always hope for the future. A growth mindset can change lives for the better. Students will know how to successfully overcome their trials and difficulties, with the support of their families and teachers. The path to healing can begin today.
For more information about treatment for borderline personality disorder, please call Sunrise at 866-754-4807.
By: Brad Simpson, LCSW, Executive Director of Sunrise Residential Treatment Center