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Transference-Focused Psychotherapy for Adolescents With Severe Personality Disorders

Lina Normandin, Ph.D., Karin Ensink, Ph.D., Alan Weiner, Ph.D., and Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.

  • 2021
  • 275 Pages
  • ISBN 978-1-61537-354-3
  • Item #37354

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Transference-Focused Psychotherapy for Adolescents With Severe Personality Disorders offers clinicians a comprehensive, compassionate presentation of this specialized psychodynamic psychotherapy. Like the transference-focused psychotherapy model developed for borderline personality disorder (BPD) in adults, the version for adolescents is based on contemporary psychoanalytic object relations theory as developed by the leading thinker in the field, Otto Kernberg, one of the authors of this insightful manual. The book fills an acute need: Currently, there is relatively little research on promising treatments for adolescents with PDs, in part because clinicians hesitate to diagnose PD in patients so young (because of stigma and other factors), although it is evident that a constellation of symptoms can be observed in children and adolescents. However, these personality issues are unlikely to resolve without interventions developed explicitly to treat adolescents. In TFP-A, the psychotherapist provides patients with a safe space to examine emotions, relationships, and past trauma, with the focus on helping them gain better behavioral control; increase affect regulation; develop more intimate and gratifying relationships with family, peers, or close friends; and engage in a productive life aimed at realizing current and future goals.

Noteworthy themes and features of the text include:

  • Emphasis on the therapist as third voice, acting as interpreter and mediator between the adolescent, the parental couple, and conventional society and its values, with the ultimate goal of fostering ego integration sufficient to allow the adolescent to proceed under his own agency.
  • Detailed coverage of the techniques of TFP-A, including creating a holding environment, assuming an active stance, engaging in the interpretive process, analyzing transference and countertransference, achieving technical neutrality, and ensuring interventions are developmentally informed.
  • Practical and accessible review of TFP-A tactics, including establishing the treatment frame, collaborating with parents, and other interventions that maintain the conditions necessary for working effectively with the adolescent and for protecting treatment integrity.
  • Thoughtful review of the attributes that make a clinician a good fit for transference-focused psychotherapy. For example, therapists must have their own lives together, because they will have to use countertransference reactions to identity and understand what is projected onto them.
  • A rich and useful repository of assessment scales and forms in the Appendices, as well as extended and illustrative patient interviews.

Navigating adolescence is fraught under the best of circumstances, but patients with PDs are hampered in their quest for individuation. Transference-Focused Psychotherapy for Adolescents With Severe Personality Disorders fills a critical gap in the treatment literature and is an eminently useful guide for clinicians serving this vulnerable population.


  • Part I: Models of Psychopathology and Normal Development for Understanding Personality Disorders at Adolescence
  • Chapter 1. Personality Disorders at Adolescence: Phenomenology and Construct Validity
  • Chapter 2. Psychodynamic Conceptualization of Personality, Development, and Personality Disorders at Adolescence
  • Part II: Therapeutic Approach
  • Chapter 3. Major Goals and Strategies
  • Chapter 4. Clinical Evaluation and Assessment Process
  • Chapter 5. Establishing the Treatment Frame and Parent Collaboration
  • Chapter 6. Techniques of TFP-A
  • Chapter 7. Tactics of TFP-A
  • Part III: Processes and Applications
  • Chapter 8. Phases of Treatment
  • Chapter 9. Conclusion
  • Appendix: TFP-A Manual Adherence and Competence Scale (TFP-A/MACS)
  • Index

About the Authors

Lina Normandin, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada; director of the Child and Adolescent Research and Treatment Unit; as well as a TFP supervisor and founder member of the ISTFP.

Karin Ensink, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada. She teaches, supervises and does research on the assessment, development and treatment of personality, psychopathology and trauma.

Alan Weiner, Ph.D.,
is a voluntary faculty member of Weill Cornell Medical College Department of Psychiatry, where he supervises advanced students in psychiatry and psychology, and a consultant in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Payne Whitney Westchester.

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D., is director of the Personality Disorders Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, and training and supervising analyst at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York, New York.

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