Outcome expectancy has been found to be a significant predictor of psychotherapy outcome. However, given that severity, chronicity and comorbidity are moderators of outcome expectancy, it is important to provide evidence of whether the same holds true in clinical conditions marked by these attributes, such as in borderline personality disorder (BPD). The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of patients’ outcome expectancy in adolescents undergoing early intervention for BPD using pre-post difference of psychosocial functioning as outcome.
Forty-four adolescent BPD patients were treated with Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Adolescents (DBT-A) or Adolescent Identity Treatment (AIT). We investigated the effect of outcome expectancy on outcome with type of treatment as moderator. Based on the relevant literature, we assess the correlation between outcome expectancy and pretreatment symptomatology, namely BPD severity, personality functioning, childhood trauma and depression.
The results showed a significant effect of expectancy on outcome (stand. β = 0.30, p = 0.020) above autoregression. ANOVA analysis revealed no difference between the two treatments. Further, results indicate that pretreatment symptomatology, i.e., depression, childhood trauma and personality functioning dimensions self-direction and intimacy, are associated with early treatment expectancy.
Outcome expectancy as a common factor plays a key role in successful psychotherapy with adolescent BPD patients. Elevated pretreatment depression, childhood trauma and impairment in personality functioning dimensions self-direction and intimacy are risk factors associated with lower expectancy. Low outcome expectancy should be addressed in early psychotherapy to improve the therapeutical process.

© 2022. The Author(s).