Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Assessment: What to Expect

Learn About BPD Assessment and Diagnosis

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If you think you (or a loved one) may have borderline personality disorder (BPD), it's important to get an accurate diagnosis, which requires a BPD assessment. 

Did you know that BPD symptoms often overlap those of other mental health disorders, such as anxiety and major depression? Following the steps below will keep you on track toward an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Find a Mental Health Professional

Look for a mental health professional with experience diagnosing and treating people with BPD.

You'll find this task easier if you use resources that are available to help you in your search.

In addition, if you have health insurance, consider asking the insurance company to give you the names of nearby mental health professionals with the expertise you're seeking who also take your insurance. If you get this information, ask how many treatment sessions they'll cover and how much your co-pay will be.

If you don't have health insurance, you may qualify for public assistance programs or services through your state or region's department of mental health or social services.

What types of mental health professionals can do a BPD assessment, provide a diagnosis, and treat you or refer you to a therapist who better matches your treatment needs? They include:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Social workers
  • Licensed mental health counselors
  • Psychiatric-mental health nurses

Generally, psychologists have the most training in psychological assessment.

So you may want to start your search with this group. Most psychologists will have a PhD or PsyD after their names. 

Before you make your first call to a therapist, go online to review his or her education, training, and experience. That way, you can check off the most promising names on your list and call them first.

Having this information before you call also means you don't have to ask about it when you schedule your appointment.

Schedule a BPD Assessment with a Therapist

Once you have a list of BPD therapists who appear to meet your requirements, start at the top and call to schedule an appointment for a BPD assessment.

Besides scheduling your appointment, the person who answers the therapist's phone can probably tell you what a BPD assessment will cost and whether your insurance is accepted. Next, ask to speak with the therapist, or, if that's not possible, ask if he or she will call you for a brief introductory discussion.

If you do get to speak with the therapist, try to get a sense of how comfortable you feel discussing your symptoms with this person. If you're reasonably satisfied with what you hear and how you feel, keep the appointment. If you aren't, thank the therapist for speaking with you, hang up, and call back to cancel the appointment. Then try the next name on your list.

Start the BPD Assessment Process

When you arrive for your first therapy session, it's normal to feel nervous and uncomfortable, particularly if you've never done this before.

It's not easy to meet a new person and share private details about your life. However, keep in mind that the more direct and honest you are during your BPD assessment, the more you will get out of it.

Your BPD assessment may take one session or several sessions. Your therapist will tell you how long the assessment will take and what types of tests or interviews you will be completing, if any. 

Different providers use different tools to conduct an assessment. Generally, you can expect the therapist to ask questions about your current and past symptoms, family and work history, and current life situation. Some therapists will also give you a short questionnaire to fill out and/or administer a psychological test, which is typically longer and asks more questions.

Receive a Diagnosis

You'll probably receive a diagnosis after your BPD assessment is completed. However, if your therapist needs more information before making a diagnosis, he or she may refer you to a specialist or your primary care doctor for further assessment. Reasons for this include:

  • Your symptoms may suggest the possibility of a non-BPD diagnosis, and the therapist may want to get another specialist's evaluation.
  • If you've had one or more serious head injuries, you may be referred for a specialist's assessment of whether some or all of your symptoms are due to this cause rather than a mental health disorder.
  • You may be referred to your primary care doctor for an assessment of any other medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

However, it's more likely you'll receive a diagnosis at the end of your BPD assessment. Your therapist will also explain more about the problems your symptoms are causing and recommend treatment options that may help you feel better.

Your therapist may provide some of your treatment or all of it. If necessary, he or she may refer you for part of your therapy to another mental health professional with special expertise.

Sources:

Groth-Marnat, G. Handbook of Psychological Assessment. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2003.

National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (2016). About BPD. http://www.borderlinepersonalitydisorder.com/about-bpd. 

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