australiaIn Australia, many families are desperately struggling to connect and support their loved ones with BPD.  In order for things to change something has to be done differently.  This change can come about when non-BPD family members learn new communication skills.  Be the change you want to happen in your family.  You cannot change anyone else, only yourself.

Last year I had the incredibly good fortune to be able to attend the NAMI Conference in Washington DC where I met up with the team from National Education Alliance Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD) some of whom became friends and we are still in contact.  NEA-BPD is now in Australia.  The fantastic news is that the first NEA-BPD Australia “Family Connections Leadership” training weekend is scheduled for May 2nd and 3rd in Melbourne with Dr Roy Krawitz and, pending interest, in June 29th and 30th in Adelaide, South Australia this year.  Dr Alan Fruzzetti, the co-author of the Family Connections Programme will lead the Adelaide training. This leadership training is only for family members and friends of those with a borderline loved one and for Clinicians. Those interested in becoming a leader of the Australian Family Connections programme can email [email protected] and request registration.

I was unable to fit a Family Connections weekend training into my tight overseas schedule but I was very kindly invited by Valerie Porr to spend a weekend at her TARA Method Family Skills Survival Workshop which teaches family members new ways to effectively communicate using DBT and validation skills and a non-blame policy with solution focussed education.

The skills I learned from Valerie’s workshop and her book I now use on my non-BPD adult sons still living at home.  It works to diffuse tension, arguments and nuclear explosions in our household.  When I say to one recalcitrant son, “It must be awful for you when we expect you to wash the kitchen floor and you want to go out and see your mates, I understand how you can’t find the time.” Paradoxically (there’s “nowt” as queer as folk says my Yorkshire, England born and bred father-in-law) that results in him reluctantly washing the floor, a five minute job and we have a laugh about it.  I have this communication skill down to a fine art now.

Understanding BPD from your loved one’s point of view is crucial to connecting authentically.  When someone is having a meltdown and black rage/mental anaphylactic shock is occurring, they cannot see or hear anything (these senses shut down), let alone take in anyone’s else’s point of view.  What you can hear though is the music of validation, the only thing that seems to cut through the dense swirling fog.  Family Connections teaches, among other things, the genetic, biological and neurobiological reactions so you get an understanding of why and how a meltdown occurs after a seemingly harmless incident or comment.  Validation soothes the savage beast of BPD which enables a small clear space for hearing and eyesight to come back online).  Trust me I know this process intimately.  I wish I could bottle validation and sell it because I would make a fortune. The next best thing is learning it from Family Connections.  Below is some information on how it is run.

Family Connections (FC) is a manualized 12 week (2 hrs/week) group program explicitly for family/friends of people with borderline personality disorder and is based on DBT theory and skills. DBT is the treatment that has the largest number of evidence-based studies of effectiveness for treating people with borderline personality disorder. The target group is family/friends of people with borderline personality disorder and the primary goal is to improve the well-being of family members. It is also hoped that improved family well-being will promote the well-being of the person with borderline personality disorder. FC programs have two leaders who may be either professionals or family members. The FC program provides psychoeducation, skills training and support and participants receive a FC workbook.

FC was developed by Perry Hoffman and Alan Fruzzetti and family members and is run under the auspices of NEA-BPD, the largest international BPD advocacy organisation. FC has 3 pre-post studies of effectiveness with significant reductions in family member distress, depression, grief, burden, hopelessness and an increase in mastery and empowerment. FC is provided by the leaders without charge to participants with participants being asked to cover small running costs (photocopying, venue, catering where applicable). FC has been very popular and is run in 16 countries, with over 1,000 people currently on the waiting list.

For more information email [email protected]  

Australian flag photo available from Shutterstock