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Life Coach and BPD Coach A.J. Mahari, in an excerpt from a workshop about Psychosocial skills, talks about how and why these skills are important for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. The reality that learning psychosocial skills is part of recovery from BPD. Mahari also talks about the main obstacle blocking the learning of these psychosocial skills when someone has Borderline Personality Disorder.

The term psychosocial refers to your psychological development in and interaction with a social environment. The term psychosocial was first commonly used by psychologist Erik Erikson in his 8 stages of social development and his life-stages of development in which he notes that development continues throughout the course of one’s life.

Difficulties that occur in one’s psychosocial functioning can be referred to as “psychosocial dysfunction that refers to the lack of development or atrophy of the psychosocial self. These difficulties can arise from other dysfunctions that may be physical, emotional, or cognitive in origin.

Psychosocial skills allow us to age-appropriately interact with, perceive, and relate to others in situationally-appropriate ways within reasonable boundaries.

Psychosocial skills include:

  • your ability to appropriately experience, display, and perceive emotional states in ways that are in balance with your age and stage of life
  • being able to relate to events and the environment, or any changes in the environment, in and from flexible balanced emotional experience – emotional experience that is modulated and regulated from the inside out
  • involve communication skills – including listening skills
  • ability to cooperatively and consistently interact and function within an age-appropriate and socially meaningful context
  • implementing and learning skills in ways that support recovery – engaging your personal journey that involves developing hope, a secure base and sense of self, supportive relationships, empowerment, social inclusion, self soothing and general coping skills, along with purpose and meaning.

Healthy and balanced psychosocial skills require a stable sense of self – knowing and trusting a self with boundaries and a healthy differentiation between that self and others. Psychosocial skills aim to nuture emotional health, balance, maturity, emotional and self mastery along with self-efficacy.


Recovery of a durable sense of self – a known self – your authentic self – the self that is lost to the arrested psychological development experienced by people who end up being diagnosed with BPD is at the center of developing an emotional and cognitive balance that lends itself to mental health. Those with BPD need to learn how to nurturing personal psychological space that allows room for developing understanding and a broad sense of self, interests, and values. This process of recovery and the learning, practice, and incorporaton of psychosocial skills education for those with BPD is usually greatly facilitated by experiences of interpersonal acceptance, mutuality, and a sense of social belonging which can be challenging in the face of the typical barrage of overt and covert negative messages that come from the broader social context and stigma about mental illness, generally, and Borderline Personality Disorder, specifically.

Empowerment and Inclusion

Empowerment and self-determination are important to recovery. For those with BPD what is especially important, after finding one’s authentic self is learning how to have self control – how to regulate your own emotions. This involves developing confidence in your newly-found self and learning to trust your decision making and help-seeking. Achieving social inclusion means coming to terms with the stigma and prejudice that exists about mental illness and its misunderstood differences. Stigma and prejudice that those with mental illness internalize in ways that are then turned against the self in what can be self-criticism and a lack of patience with self. Empowering yourself also involves learning and practicing psychosocial skills.

Coping strategies

The development of personal coping strategies such as emotion regulation and boundaries are central elements to learning to cope more effectively. Developing coping and problem solving skills to manage individual traits and emotional challenges involves you actively becoming engaged in learning to recognize and identify key stress points and possible crisis points – being mindful and aware in radically accepting ways that will enhance your awareness and understanderstanding of your own needs and assist you in developing personal ways of responding and coping.

Purpose and Meaning

Finding purpose comes with getting to know your authentic self. The more you can learn and practice psychosocial skills the more you will be aware of who you authentically are. Developing a sense of meaning is important for sustaining yourself during and after your recovery process.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder will continue to experience major challenges in learning and being able to incorporate psychoskills in the process of recovery until they can find that lost self inside. It is truly the central most important aspects of recovery. Once that self starts to become more known progress from that point speeds up, things make more sense and coping is enhanced the stronger one’s sense of self becomes.

© A.J. Mahari, May 12, 2010 – All rights reserved.

Psychosocial Skills and Borderline Personality Recovery