This paper provides a commentary upon the nursing care of individuals diagnosed with personality disorder and associated education courses. The discussion focuses upon recent policy trends in the UK as a point of departure. This policy discourse is critical of mainstream mental health services in previously operating to exclude such individuals. One of the consequences has been a recent growth in interest in relevant training courses, many of which devote significant attention to staff attitudes regarding this client group. Various previous researchers and commentators have remarked upon the implications for practice of a perceived negative attitude amongst care staff.
We reflect upon our own anecdotal experience of developing and delivering new university based courses for practitioners working in the field of personality disorder to offer a particular critique of the UK context in which this policy, training and practice is framed. Social constructionist theories are drawn on to offer insights into public and practitioner discourse and the possible effects on therapeutic relationships. The available discourse constructs individuals with a diagnosis of personality disorder as essentially different from other people. We argue that staff training and practice development initiatives are likely to be more successful if such discourse is challenged, and attempts are made in therapeutic encounters to recognise shared characteristics and positive attributes as much as perceived difference and negative attributes. We refer to this as a re-engagement with common humanity. Despite the singular national context the discursive themes explored are not necessarily restricted to the UK.
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