Skip to content

Treatment of Severe Personality Disorders

Resolution of Aggression and Recovery of Eroticism

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.

  • ISBN 978-1-61537-143-3
  • Item #37143

View Pricing

List Price

APA Members

20% off

APA Resident-Fellow Members

25% off

Buying In Canada or Europe?


In Treatment of Severe Personality Disorders: Resolution of Aggression and Recovery of Eroticism, the influential psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Otto Kernberg presents an integrated update of the current knowledge of personality disorders, their neurobiological and psychodynamic determinants, and a specific psychodynamic psychotherapy geared to resolve the psychopathology of these conditions—namely, the syndrome of identity diffusion and its influence on the capacity for emotional wellbeing and gratifying relationships with significant others. The author updates the findings of the Personality Disorders Institute of the Weill Cornell Medical College Department of Psychiatry, which are derived from the empirical research and clinical investigation of severe personality disorders, and addresses the effectiveness of transference-focused psychotherapy, a specific psychodynamic treatment for these disorders developed at the Institute. The volume focuses particularly on an essential group of techniques common to all psychoanalytically derived treatments and clarifies the corresponding differential features of various psychodynamic treatment approaches.

In prose both precise and evocative, the author:

  • Examines the classification of personality disorders, the way competing viewpoints have influenced the evolution of DSM-III and DSM-IV, and the impact of new knowledge on the classification of DSM-5, with emphasis on how conflicts between scientific and political considerations have hindered the classification of personality disorders in the past.
  • Illustrates in detail how present knowledge of neurobiological structures and neurotransmitters intertwines with the psychodynamic determinants of how psychic experience is organized.
  • Explores psychodynamic psychotherapies and contemporary developments and controversies in the field. For example, the role of interpretation in borderline pathology is examined using a clinical case, and a new formulation of supportive psychodynamic psychotherapy is described.
  • Addresses severe narcissistic pathology—its diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Specifically, the book presents an overview of treatment options for severe narcissistic personality disorder, explores the distortions in verbal communication that may arise during psychotherapy with these patients, and focuses on the differential diagnosis of antisocial behavior.
  • Examines the diagnosis and treatment of sexual pathology, and explores the vicissitudes of the love lives of patients with severe personality disorders.
  • Concludes with a chapter on the essential preconditions in the education of psychodynamic psychotherapists to carry out the challenging and complex psychotherapeutic work in this field.

In describing both the limits and the advances in therapeutic effectiveness, the Treatment of Severe Personality Disorders: Resolution of Aggression and Recovery of Eroticism performs a great service, and it will surely become a classic of the psychoanalytic literature.


  • About the Author
  • Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • Part I: Personality Disorders
  • Chapter 1. What is Personality?
  • Chapter 2. Overview and Critique of the Classification of Personality Disorders Proposed for DSM-5
  • Chapter 3. Neurobiological Correlates of Object Relations Theory
  • Part II: Spectrum of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies
  • Chapter 4. The Basic Components of Psychoanalytic Technique and Derived Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies
  • Chapter 5. Interpretation in Borderline Pathology: A Clinical Illustration
  • Chapter 6. The Spectrum of Psychoanalytic Techniques
  • Chapter 7. New Developments in Transference-Focused Psychotherapy
  • Chapter 8. A New Formulation of Supportive Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
  • Part III: Narcissistic Pathology
  • Chapter 9. An Overview of the Treatment of Severe Narcissistic Pathology
  • Chapter 10. Narcissistic Defenses in the Distortion of Free Association and Their Underlying Anxieties
  • Chapter 11. The Differential Diagnosis of Antisocial Behavior: A Clinical Approach
  • Part IV: Erotism in the Transference
  • Chapter 12. Erotic Transferences and Countertransferences in Patients With Severe Personality Disorders: Part I: The Evaluation of Sexual Pathology
  • Chapter 13. Erotic Transferences and Countertransferences in Patients with Severe Personality Disorders: Part II: Therapeutic Developments
  • Part V: Hope About Life, Mourning, and the Training of Psychotherapists
  • Chapter 14. The Denial of Reality
  • Chapter 15. The Long–Term Effects of the Mourning Process
  • Chapter 16. A Proposal for Innovation in Psychoanalytic Education

About the Authors

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medicine and Director of the Personality Disorders Institute at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Westchester Division, White Plains, NY. He is also Training and Supervising Analyst, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, New York, NY, and past President of the International Psychoanalytic Association.

Otto Kernberg is one of the most illustrious and most frequently cited psychoanalysts alive. This, his most recent volume, discusses the topics that have been identified with him for the last several decades—serious personality disorders, their etiology, diagnosis and treatment, research on those treatments, the psychoanalytic theories that link what we know about these disorders with their treatment, and special problems that emerge with these patients in relation to eroticism, aggression, and reality. Kernberg's thinking provides an essential context for any contemporary clinician working with these patients.—Robert Michels, M.D., Walsh McDermott University Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, Cornell University, Training and Supervising Analyst, Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, Former Joint Editor-in-Chief, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis

More than anyone else, Otto F. Kernberg shaped our idea of borderline personality and narcissism as well as their psychoanalytical treatment. In his thrilling latest book, he deepens our insight into aggressive and sexual aspects of the relationships of patients with personality disorders. In his clarity and depth, he discloses new dimensions of the transference relationship and the treatment technique related to it.—Univ.-Prof. Dr. Stephan Doering, head of the clinic for psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy, Medical University of Vienna

A brilliant contribution by a psychoanalytic pioneer and pathfinder. An up to date review of eroticism and aggression in personality disorders. The discussion of transference is especially needed and useful. All psychotherapists must read and assimilate this book. It restores the erotic to the modern psychotherapeutic domain. Recommended without reservation.—Richard C. Friedman, M.D., Clinical Professor Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College

Otto Kernberg has been a prolific and highly influential contributor to the psychiatric literature over many decades. This book is perhaps the most accessible of his many contributions, well curated, nicely organized, and well edited. While comprised of individual essays that stand alone and make for bite-size reading, the individual chapters hang together and tell an overall story of the current status of severe personality disorders, their classification, dynamics, and treatment within a psychodynamic frame of reference, with special reference to borderline and narcissistic pathology.

This book has something for everyone—clinicians who work with patients with personality disorders, students of psychodynamics and psychoanalysis, and those with expertise in dynamic therapies will all find something of interest.—Eve Caligor, M.D., Journal of Psychiatric Practice May 2019

Related Products

Become an APA Member
Join Now