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Vol. 80, No. 3, 2011
Issue release date: April 2011
Psychother Psychosom 2011;80:173–181

Effectiveness of Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS) for Borderline Personality Problems in a ‘Real-World’ Sample: Moderation by Diagnosis or Severity?

Bos E.H. · van Wel E.B. · Appelo M.T. · Verbraak M.J.P.M.
aLentis and bUniversity Center for Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, cDimence Mental Health Care Overijssel, Deventer, and dBehavioral Science Institute, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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Background: Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS) is a group treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). Two prior randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown the efficacy of this training. In both RCTs, patients with borderline features who did not meet the DSM-IV criteria for BPD were excluded, which were many. We investigated the effectiveness of STEPPS in a sample representative of routine clinical practice and examined whether DSM-IV diagnosis and/or baseline severity were related to differential effectiveness. Methods: Patients whom their practicing clinician diagnosed with BPD were randomized to STEPPS plus adjunctive individual therapy (STEPPS, n = 84) or to treatment as usual (TAU, n = 84). Results: STEPPS recipients showed more improvement on measures of general and BPD-specific psychopathology as well as quality of life than TAU recipients, both at the end of treatment and at a 6-month follow-up. Presence of DSM-IV-diagnosed BPD was not related to differential treatment effectiveness, but dimensional measures of symptom severity were; STEPPS was superior to TAU particularly in patients with higher baseline severity scores. Conclusions: The findings show the effectiveness of STEPPS in a ‘real-world’ sample, and underscore the importance of dimensional versus categorical measures of personality disturbance.

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