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Personality disordered women in secure care: a treatment evaluation

Clive G. Long (Associate Director of Psychology and Psychological Therapies, based at St Andrew's Academic Centre, Kings College London Institute of Psychiatry, Northampton, UK)
Olga Dolley (based at Department of Psychology, St Andrew's, Northampton, UK)
Clive R. Hollin (Professor, based at School of Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 12 March 2014




The purpose of this paper is to assess the effectiveness of a gender-specific group treatment programme for personality disordered (PD) women in a medium secure psychiatric setting.


In all, 56 consecutive admissions with a primary diagnosis of personality disorder (mostly borderline type) and co-morbidity were assessed according to their participation in, and benefit from, a core set of five manualised group treatments that focused on social and interpersonal deficits, instability of mood and problematic substance use. A single cohort pre-test post-test comparison design was used with evaluation based on global change over an amalgam of self-report group specific outcome measures.


In all, 70 per cent of patients attended three or more core groups, with attendance for each group ranging from 85 to 53 per cent. Between 65 and 77 per cent of patients showed a significant improvement on pre-group psychometrics. Patients who achieved a significant positive change in one group tended to do so in others. In all, 85 per cent of patients who completed two or more groups had overall positive direction of change scores. Those who benefited from treatment engaged more quickly, were more likely to have been admitted from hospital, to have previously engaged in therapy and to score lower on measures of impulsivity and personality pathology.

Research limitations/implications

In a clinically representative study the absence of a control group limits the extent to which observed changes can be attributed to described interventions.

Practical implications

Findings reflect the importance of providing a broad clinical approach to changing cognitive behavioural functioning with PD patients in secure settings. They also highlight the need to improve ways of engaging patients at an earlier stage of hospital stay and of increasing the acceptability and uptake of relevant group treatments. Further evidence-informed service developments are needed to meet these challenges.


The study adds to a small literature on the clinical impact of a gender-specific group treatment programme for PD women in secure settings.



G. Long, C., Dolley, O. and R. Hollin, C. (2014), "Personality disordered women in secure care: a treatment evaluation", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 44-58.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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