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Treatment services

There are a variety of treatment services for people with personality disorders. Different treatment options will be appropriate for different people and their particular circumstances.

Spectrum is a specialist service within the public mental health system for people with a personality disorder. Spectrum is only available for a very small number of people who require a specialist service (for example, because their needs are particularly complex) – not all people with BPD in Victoria will be able to access Spectrum’s treatment services.

Public (free) mental health services vary widely in terms of what treatments they offer for people with BPD. These Clinical Mental Health Services are further divided according to:

  • Age groups: Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (0-18 years), Adult Specialist Mental Health Services (16-64 years) and Aged Persons Mental Health Services, (65+) and
  • Specific population groups – for example, Indigenous people, people with a dual disability and forensic patients each have a specialist service. 

For information and contact details for Clinical Mental Health Services, see the Victorian Government’s website.

Mental Health Community Support Services (MHCSS) are offered by a large number of different non-government organisations, and also vary widely in terms of what treatments they offer for people with BPD. In Victoria, there is a centralised system for accessing MHCSS, again depending on geographical regions:

  • North, Inner East, East and South East regions:
    EACH Social and Community Health
    1300 785 358 (9am - 5pm Monday to Friday)
  • South West, North West, Inner North, Bayside and Frankston-Mornington Peninsula regions
    Neami National
    1300 379 462 (9am - 5pm Monday to Friday)
  • Gippsland, Goulburn Valley, Grampians, Great South Coast, Hume and Loddon Mallee
    ACSO
    1300 022 760 (9am - 5pm Monday to Friday).

Private health insurance opens up many treatment options for people with BPD. Specifically, many private hospitals offer BPD-specific treatment, including day treatment group programs in conjunction with individual therapy/psychiatry. Options depend on the particular private health insurance provider, level of cover and the offerings of the various private hospitals. More information about the range of services offered by private hospitals is available through the BPD Foundation’s website.

Individual therapy is the most common treatment option. Therapy is usually conducted with a registered mental health clinician, perhaps a psychologist, social worker, nurse, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. It is important to feel confident with the therapist who is undertaking treatment with you.

There are various ways to access a therapist:

  1. Speak with your GP and discuss options that they are familiar with. They may be able to refer you to a private psychiatrist, psychologist or other allied health professionals, experienced with BPD;
  2. Speak with other people you trust who may have contact details for a clinician who works well with people with BPD;
  3. Find a clinician yourself:

Psychologists: Psychologists are experts in human behaviour and mental processes. Many psychologists are trained in various forms of psychotherapy. Psychologist services in the community are funded by Medicare but sometimes there is an additional “gap” charge to the service user. A psychologist providing treatment for borderline personality disorder should be using a form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective for BPD. Usually psychologists providing psychotherapy will be endorsed by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) College of Clinical Psychologists or College of Counselling Psychologists Most psychologists require a referral from a GP. Psychologists are listed on the Australian Psychological Society's Website.

Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have trained as medical specialists in mental health practice. They specialise in diagnosing and treating people with mental illnesses, including the prescribing of medications used for such treatment. Psychiatrist services in the community are funded by Medicare but sometimes there is an additional “gap” charge to the consumer. A psychiatrist who is providing treatment for borderline personality disorder should be using a form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective for BPD. All fully qualified psychiatrists in Australia are members of the Royal Australia New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RNZCP) and are listed on the RANZCP’s website (find a psychiatrist). Most psychiatrists will accept referrals from a GP but also take direct referrals.

Credentialled Mental Health Nurses: Credentialled Mental Health Nurses are registered nurses who have completed an accreditation process with the College of Mental Health Nurses that ensures they have advanced expertise in treating mental illness. They are listed on the ACMHN website (‘credentialled mental health nurses’). Credentialled mental health nurses most often work as part of a GP’s or private psychiatrist practice that has been funded by Medicare to provide a credentialled mental health nurse as part of their services. There is usually no gap charge for a credentialled mental health nurse operating from a GP or private psychiatrist practice. A credentialled mental health nurse who is providing treatment for borderline personality disorder should be using a form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective for BPD.

Nurse Practitioners: Nurse Practitioners (NPs) suited to working with BPD service users are advanced nurses who are specially qualified and registered in Australia to provide an expanded scope of practice in mental health. Mental Health NP services in the community are funded by Medicare but sometimes there is an additional “gap” charge to the service user. Similar to a GP or psychiatrist, a mental health NP is able to diagnose and treat people with mental illnesses, including prescribing medications used for such treatment. A Mental Health NP who is providing treatment for borderline personality disorder should be using a form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective for BPD. Nurse practitioners can receive referrals from a GP or a psychiatrist but can also take direct referrals.

Accredited Mental Health Social Workers: Usually a Social Worker who is providing treatment for borderline personality disorder wil be an Accredited Mental Health Social Workers who has been assessed by Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) as having specialist mental health expertise. Accredited mental health social worker services in the community are funded by Medicare but sometimes there is an additional “gap” charge to the service user. An accredited mental health social worker who is providing treatment for borderline personality disorder should be using a form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective for BPD. Most accredited mental health social workers require a referral from a GP.

Mental Health Endorsed Occupational Therapists (OTs): Usually an OT who is providing treatment for borderline personality disorder will be a mental health Endorsed OT who has been assessed by Occupational Therapy Australia as having specialist mental health expertise. Mental health endorsed OT services in the community are funded by Medicare but sometimes there is an additional “gap” charge to the service user. A mental health endorsed OT who is providing treatment for borderline personality disorder should be using a form of occupational therapy practice that aligns well to psychotherapeutic approaches shown to be effective for BPD. Most OT’s require a referral from a GP.

Finding a therapist that feels right for you can be a challenging process, although there are various resources out there to support navigating through this process. The various professions listed above all have their own professional bodies and directories for locating their members. These are:

  • The Royal Australian college of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)
  • The Australian Psychological Society (APS)
  • The College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHS)
  • Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW)
  • Occupational Therapy Australia.

In relation to the professional therapists we mention above, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) registers all doctors (including psychiatrists), nurses (including nurse practitioners), occupational therapists and psychologists (but not social workers at this stage). The AHPRA website allows you to check that the name of your doctor, nurse, occupational therapist or psychologist has a current registration to practise in Australia.

  • SANE Australia offers telephone advice and referrals 1800 18 SANE (7263)
  • Relationships Australia provides relationship support services to enhance human and family relationships – 1300 364 277
  • Headspace offers support to people aged 12-25
  • Many professional bodies exist for the various types of therapeutic approaches – they often have a website with contact details of registered therapists.

The cost of private practitioners varies enormously. Some are able to offer appointments subsidised by Medicare, some are subsidised in other ways (for example, some professionals are able to negotiate a lower price for people on a low income).