Christian Living

Family Matters 07/14/11

Treating BPD with Mindfulness Therapy

This week, I hosted a live webinar for the American Association of Christian Counselors on the topic of treating Borderline Personality Disorders. BPD is characterized by pervasive instability of mood, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. It’s a disorder of emotional regulation problems, often accompanied by self-injury and suicide attempt. Living with a borderline family member can be difficult and frightening if the person does not seek treatment.

The gold standard of treatment these days is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This therapy works on self-image, impulsivity, mood instability, and relationship problems. The therapy is effective for BPD, but Christians must ask a few questions before they engage in this therapy. The main issue involves how the skill of mindfulness is taught. It is a core skill taught in DBT.

The type of mindfulness being trained in most practice centers and academic institutions is incompatible with Christian theology. While the definition of mindfulness in psychotherapy is not anti-Christian and usually refers to self-regulation and present moment orientation, the practice of Buddhist-based mindfulness is problematic for Christians. In Buddhism, one empties the mind, allowing oneself to become detached from all thoughts. Thoughts are not to be judged.

Yet, the New Testament refers to the mind as evil (II Cor. 3:14; II Cor. 4:4; II Timothy 3:8; Romans 1:28) in need of renewal. Our thoughts are important and will be judged as Jesus noted in Matthew 5:28. The Apostle Paul reminds us that nothing good lives in us (Romans 7:18).

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. (NLT)

In other words, our unenlightened minds are not capable of enlightenment on their own. While mindfulness practice may relieve stress, it does not bring wholeness to the person because it does not bring life to the spirit. True rest comes from the person of Christ (Matthew 11:28) and cannot be imitated through self-effort.

Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (NLT)

For Christians, mindfulness is an active process between God and man. God is mindful of us (Psalms 8:4; Hebrews 2:6) and we are to put on the mind of Christ. To do so, we meditate on who God is and listen to Him in prayer. Daily, we renew our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us (Romans 12:2), love God with all our mind (Matthew 22:37) and implant God’s laws into our minds (Hebrews 8:10). Meditation is a way to connect with God, to cling to God, to listen for His voice and to align our thinking to His. This creates greater intimacy not detachment.  

So if a family member diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder is looking for treatment, find a Christian therapist who does DBT and practices the mindfulness component from a Christian perspective.

Dr. Linda Mintle is the author of "Getting Unstuck" and other books that address mental health issues in daily living. Check out her books and other resources on her website,