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Conceptualising and treating high risk in people with a personality disorder diagnosis

Prof. Michaela Swales

Thursday, 5 December 2024


People with complex difficulties, sometimes called personality disorder,  and high-risk behaviours experience intense emotional pain.  Clinicians frequently struggle to effectively engage people with these difficulties and also experience intense emotions themselves in endeavouring to help.  Professor Swales is an expert in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, one of the most researched and efficacious treatments for people whose behaviours are often labelled as borderline personality disorder that has a central focus on emotions.  In this workshop Michaela will extract relevant principles from DBT that can be applied in routine practice to assist clinicians in these situations to both address their clients’ difficulties whilst taking care of themselves.

The event will be equivalent to 5.1/2hrs of CPD.


In this workshop Professor Michaela Swales will cover:
• the recent changes in conceptualising personality disorder problems in ICD-11 (briefly)
• conceptualising problems that receive a personality disorder label – the central role of emotions
• engaging clients in helpful psychological interactions
• structuring interactions around the resolution of emotional pain
• skills for addressing intense emotional distress
• treating yourself to remain effective

Learning Objectives

1. To understand the new diagnostic classification for personality problems within ICD-11
2. To be able to identify the central role of emotions in driving high-risk behaviours
3. To recognise key steps in achieving engagement in a helpful psychological interaction
4. To learn how to conceptualise emotions from a DBT frame
5. To understand three key skills in intervening to address highly intense emotions
6. To recognise how to apply these skills to yourself to maintain effective therapeutic interactions

Training Modalities

Didactic methods, videos and live role-play with participants to illustrate key concepts.

Key References

Bach, B., Kramer, U., Doering, S., di Giacomo, E., Hutsebaut, J., Kaera, A., ... & Renneberg, B. (2022). The ICD-11 classification of personality disorders: a European perspective on challenges and opportunities. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation, 9(1), 1-11.
Dunkley, C. (2020).  Regulating emotion the DBT way. A therapist’s guide to opposite action. Routledge
Swales, M. A. (2022). Personality disorder diagnoses in ICD-11: transforming conceptualisations and practice. Clinical Psychology in Europe, 4(Spec Issue).
Swales, M & Heard, H. (2017).  Dialectical Beahviour Therapy: Distinctive Features.  Routledge

About the presenter

Michaela Swales PhD is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Professor in Clinical Psychology and Programme Director of the North Wales Clinical Psychology Programme, Bangor University.  She trained in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy in Seattle in 1994 / 95 with Marsha Linehan and for twenty years ran a clinical programme for suicidal young people in an inpatient service.  Professor Swales is the Director of the British Isles Training Team, a training team recognised internationally for its quality.  She has trained more than a thousand professionals in DBT, seeding over 400 programmes, in both the UK and further afield.  She co-authored, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy: Distinctive Features (2009; 2017) and Changing Behavior in DBT: Problem-Solving in Action (2015).  She is the Editor of the Oxford Handbook of DBT (2019).  Her primary research interest is the effective implementation of evidence-based psychological therapies in routine clinical practice. Professor Swales was a member of the Working Group on Classification of Personality Disorders, reporting to the World Health Organisation (WHO) International Advisory Group for the Revision of ICD-10 Mental and Behavioural Disorders.  She is President Elect of the European Society for the Study of Personality Disorders.

Who should attend

This event is suitable for any clinician working in mental health services and third sector organisations who encounter people with difficulties that are often labelled as personality disorder.  You do not need any background in DBT to come to this workshop as the focus is on the broader use of general principles.  Clinicians who do have a background in DBT may find the event useful as a refresher of key points to remember in dealing with clients’ emotional pain.

Details coming soon

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