Text: Céline Stegmüller

Understanding emotions through psychotherapy

New practices, new areas of expertise: zoom on a research project carried out within the Department of Psychiatry at the Lausanne University Hospital.

Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of personality disorders. This is the conclusion of a series of studies involving a group of young adults with borderline personality disorder that has been going on at the Department of Psychiatry at Lausanne University Hospital since 2010. “Right now, we don’t know a lot about why and how it works,” admits Ueli Kramer, privat-docent at the University of Lausanne and psychologist/psychotherapist at the Psychiatry Service who conducts psychotherapy research. “Still, psychological and biological changes can be observed during a single session and from one session to another.”

Psychiatric follow-up care focused on diagnosing and managing the disease can be an integral part of treatment. However, when it comes to managing the issues associated with personality disorders, psychotherapy is the tool that’s the most useful right away.

Patients make progress on multiple fronts, including an improved ability to regulate their emotions, establish a constructive relationship with their therapist, and achieve a better understanding of how they function.

“We thought treating personality disorders was more a matter of addressing the patient’s psychological issues than their biological concerns,” explains Jean-Nicolas Despland, director of the University Institute of Psychotherapy at the Lausanne University Hospital. Of course, medications are used, such as with specific depressive disorders, for example, but patients achieve real change through psychotherapy.



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