Scientific fondations of TFP series
As a member of the ISTFP Public Relations and Communication committee, I have the privilege of connecting with professionals from diverse backgrounds who share their experiences and challenges in implementing Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) in various therapeutic settings worldwide. One recurring challenge that has emerged is the persistent misconception that TFP lacks scientific validity. In this series of articles, my objective is to provide fellow members with the necessary tools to debunk this myth.
Thank you for randomized control trials
In my experience, one of the most effective strategies to address the challenge of perceived lack of scientific validity in Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP) is to begin communications by highlighting TFP as a psychodynamic treatment for personality disorders that has been validated by randomized control trials (RCTs). This approach tends to engage the interest of a wide range of audiences.
I hold great respect and gratitude for fellow members who have dedicated themselves to the development of these RCT’s and who continue to plan new RCT’s. Conducting such trial, which play an indispensable role in establishing the credibility of TFP requires a great deal of effort. Especially when pretigious entities like the Cochrane database of systematic reviews use those RCT’s to determine which treatments have the most empirical support. I was happy to see that in 2012 Transference Focused Psychotherapy was considered a promising treatment for BPD along with Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, Schema Therapy, and Mentalisation Based Therapy. Unfortunately, in Cochrane’s new iteration of the review (2020), only DBT and MBT are mentioned as promising treatments. For this reason, the ISTFP is actively pursuing new RCT’s. To ensure that all members have easy access to the existing data, I have included links to all the RCTs at the end of this article.
However, even after presenting evidence of the treatment’s effectiveness, we often encounter a recurring weakness, which is the questioning of our theoretical foundation. I understand that some of you may disagree, emphasizing that our capacity to draw from the extensive psychoanalytic literature is indeed one of our greatest strengths. I completely agree , but we also have to recognize that in an evidence-based world, this reliance on psychoanalytic literature can sometimes undermine our credibility in the eyes of many.
Kernberg’s theory of personality
We are fortunate that Dr. Kernberg, the founding father of Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), has successfully expanded the roots of psychoanalysis to create a psychodynamic treatment that integrates contemporary advancements in neurology with core concepts of psychoanalysis. In this series of articles, we will delve into the scientific evidence that substantiates the fundamental principles of Transference Focused Psychotherapy. Moreover, my aim is to present this information in a manner that is accessible to everyone, so it can be used in many contexts. To facilitate this, I will include links not only to scientific papers but also to the relevant images I have utilized.
Given the extensive nature of the topic, I will employ the following papers as guiding lights to navigate our exploration:
In the first paper, Kernberg provides a clear depiction of personality as a dynamic “umbrella” organization comprising various major component systems.
- Object relations
- Ethical value system
- Cognitive capability (More precisely, attention and effortful control)
When I read the article, I was captivated by the elegant simplicity of the description, which not only established a connection with neurology but also provided bridges with other sciences.
For the time being, our exploration will focus on examining the temperamental components of this organization, deferring the investigation of its dynamic to a later point.
Mathieu Norton-Poulin, M.Ps.
Mathieu Norton-Poulin is a psychologist in private practice in Gatineau, Québec. He graduated from Laval University in 1995 and started his training in transference focused psychotherapy in 2005. Member of the TFP-Québec group he as been practicing has a certified TFP therapist for the last 9 years. Since 2009 he organized several training events and has given lectures on TFP for medical doctors and college students. He maintains a blog where he write, in plain words, articles to explain TFP to the general public.