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Date of Graduation

8-7-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Department of Graduate Psychology

Advisor(s)

Gregg Henriques

Ken Critchfield

Elena Savina

Abstract

Abstract

In the field of psychology, there are many different ways to understand or make sense of a phenomenon. Researchers, theorists, or practitioners can approach topics via many different paradigms or schools of thought that guide their general understanding, programs of research or approach to therapeutic practice. Although this diversity of analysis affords some strength in terms of allowing many perspectives, it also brings with it a serious problem of fragmentation. With the countless theories and paradigms, we lack a shared language and meta-theoretical framework that assimilates and integrates the various bodies of knowledge and perspectives into a coherent frame or outline for the general psychological landscape. This means that cumulative knowledge may be threatened in the mass of different opinion and perspective.

Henriques has developed a framework that he argues can fill an important gap in psychological knowledge. In 2011, he proposed a new “unified theory” of psychology (UT) with the assertion that it could provide an organizing framework to hold and connect divergent claims, resulting in a more coherent whole. A central consequence of Henriques’ argument is that different phenomena in psychology could be analyzed from the perspective of the UT, and key insights from the paradigms and programs of empirical research could be assimilated and integrated to give a coherent, holistic account. The central feature of Henriques’ account is that it provides psychologist with a new frame approaching psychology. Whereas mainstream psychology is anchored to the epistemology of science, Henriques calls for a psychology that is anchored a conception of the mental based in a new ontology for natural science.

An implication of Henriques’ Unified Theory is that psychological concepts can be reinterpreted through this lens such that their underlying nature can be more clearly defined and specified. This effort has been applied to several concepts, such as depression (Henriques & Panizo, 2018), well-being (Henriques, Asselin and Kleinman, 2014), dreams (McDermott, 2019), and domains of character adaptation (Henriques, 2017). The current project extends this effort to the concept of borderline personality disorder.

More specifically, this dissertation aims to employ the Character Adaptation Systems Theory (CAST), an outgrowth of the UT, to analyze the field’s understanding of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). CAST extends from the UT and offers a bridge between the study of personality and psychotherapy, offering a whole-person approach to conceptualization. This project will then offer a conceptualization of BPD through the CAST model and evaluate its capability to organize the fragmented construct of BPD, by assessing the various paradigms it integrates.

After a short introduction, the history of the “borderline” term is explored and illustrates how the term developed into a “personality disorder”. This is followed by a review of major BPD paradigms, including the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Cognitive Theory, Biosocial Theory, Interpersonal Theory, Five Factor Model, and Schema Mode Model. The case of Liam will then be explored through the various major paradigms and the application of each model can be recognized. This will be followed by a synopsis of the UT and an outline of CAST. This unifying framework is intended to organize varying theoretical perspectives and plots both their unique insights and overlapping qualities onto a broader system that illuminates how human beings develop and exist.

Two key aims guide this investigation. This project can be considered a test of the hypothesis that the Unified Theory provides a metatheoretical framework that can assimilate and integrate major schools of thought such that key concepts become more clearly defined and intelligible. Many argue that broad systemic perspectives such as the UT tend to sacrifice breadth and fine-grained details when applied to more specific concepts. The UT argues that it affords both breadth and depth and this project explores that hypothesis as applied to borderline personality disorder. Second, to the extent that this first aim is successful, what should emerge is a new networked conception of BPD that weaves its key features together in a manner that yields a richer, more integrated and intelligible picture of the core of the condition.

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