Adapting schema group therapy for older adults with personality disorders: lessons learnt.

Arjan C Videler, K.A. van Beest, M.A. Ouwens, Gina Rossi, Rita van Royen, Sebastiaan van Alphen

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Abstract A first empirical study into group schema therapy in older adults with mood disorders and personality disorder (PD) features has shown that brief group schema therapy has potential to decrease psychological distress and to change early maladaptive schemas (EMS). Effect sizes however were smaller than those found in similar studies in younger adults. Therefore, we set out to adapt the treatment protocol for older adults in order to enhance its feasibility and outcome in this age group. We examined this adapted protocol in 29 older adults (mean age 66 years) with PDs from four Dutch mental health institutes. The primary outcome was symptomatic distress, measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory. Secondary outcomes were measured by the Young Schema Questionnaire, the Schema Mode Inventory, and the short version of the Severity Indices of Personality Problems. Contrary to our expectations, the adapted treatment protocol yielded only a small effect size in our primary outcome, and no significant improvement in EMS, modes and personality functioning. Patients pointed out that they were more aware of their dysfunctional patterns, but maybe they had not been able yet to work on behavioural change due to this schema therapy treatment being too brief. We recommend more intensive treatment for older patients with PDs, as they might benefit from more schema therapy sessions, similar to the treatment dosage in younger PD patients. They might also benefit from a combination of group therapy and individual treatment sessions. Key learning aims (1) How to adapt group schema therapy for older adults. (2) How to explore feasibility and outcome. (3) Treat older personality disorder patients as intensively as younger adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere35
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalThe Cognitive Behaviour Therapist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2021


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