Personality Disorders Through the Lifespan: Phenomenology, Treatment, and Controversies

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

This course will delve into personality disorders -- what they are, how they differ from normal personality traits, how they impact the quality of life and functional impairment of sufferers, and current treatment approaches. We will also explore current controversies regarding personality disorders. Should they be diagnosed in children and adolescents? Should they be treated at all or should we strive for greater acceptance?

Personality Disorders are highly prevalent among psychiatric patients as well as the general population. Yet as a class of psychiatric illness, they often receive less attention and resources compared to other types of psychiatric illnesses such as Mood Disorders or Anxiety Disorders. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that having a Personality Disorder impacts the effectiveness of treatments for other psychiatric disorders.

The first week of this course will focus on the phenomenology of personality disorders and will address topics and questions such as: What are personality disorders and how does this differ from personality traits? How prevalent are they? What causes personality disorders? What is the course and trajectory of personality disorders? Are they stable over one’s lifetime or do personality disorders get better with treatment? We will also discuss a number of current controversies surrounding personality disorders. These include whether personality disorders can be diagnosed in children and adolescents; whether the name should be changed to be less stigmatizing; whether disorders should be represented dimensionally or categorically; and whether some disorders warrant treatment at all.

The second week of the course will focus on a number of current treatments that are used to treat patients with personality disorders. We will take a look at the theoretical basis behind these interventions including Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Transference Focused Therapy, and Mentalization Based Therapy. We will also look at empirical studies that have examined these interventions as treatments for Personality Disorders, specifically Borderline Personality Disorder.

By the end of this two week course, students will have learned:
• What personality disorders are, and why it is important to recognize and diagnose personality disorders, particularly in high risk individuals with numerous comorbidities;
• What some of the most recently developed interventions are for personality disorders;
• Understand the current controversies in the field of psychiatry regarding personality disorders.
Furthermore, students will arrive at a basic understanding of psychopathology and psychosocial treatment that can be generalized to other psychiatric disorders.

Prerequisites: There are no course prerequisites; however students should feel comfortable participating in group discussions and presentations.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPY0954
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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