Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

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The Limitations of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapies of Suicidality from an Existential-Phenomenological Perspective

Gabriel Rossouw


Suicidality, a significant problem in New Zealand for the past decade or so, has invited a substantial body of research into causes and prevention. However, given the effort, the prevention results do not appear to be sufficiently convincing when coroners’ views are considered. This paper focuses on two mainstream therapeutic approaches towards persons with borderline personality disorder, in which suicidal behaviour is a prominent feature demanding understanding and active attention. It is argued that dialectical behaviour therapy and psychoanalytically informed therapies are lacking on two accounts. Firstly, the philosophical and methodological underpinnings of both approaches perpetuate what Heidegger refers to as the compound misunderstanding of ourselves as human beings. Secondly, what this translates into is a
practice which forgets the human order and misunderstands the experience of the singular human present in despair. As an alternative approach towards dealing with suicide in practice, the author presents concepts central to Heidegger’s phenomenology of human existence and discusses how these may inform and enhance the treatment of suicidal patients.

Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, Volume 7, Edition 2 September 2007
AJOL African Journals Online