Unified Therapy Home Page

Unified Therapy is an integration of psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral and family systems concepts and therapy techniques designed for the psychotherapeutic treatment of adult individuals exhibiting self-destructive or self-defeating behavior patterns. In particular, the treatment addresses the interpersonal triggers to acting-out behaviors typical of cluster B and C personality disorders. The ideas on which the integration is based are derived from dialectical philosophy and epistemology. Briefly, ambivalent role-functioning and contradictory demands in the patient's family of origin, caused by family rules which lag behind the evolution of the ambient culture, are believed to reinforce (in the behaviorist sense and on a variable intermittent reinforcement schedule) the patient's intrapsychic conflicts and the resultant dysfunctional behavior. The patient's behavior simultaneously reinforces ambivalent, dysfunctional behavior in the rest of the family.

Treatment is designed to accomplish the following strategic goals:

  1. Frame the patient's chief complaint and current difficulties as a response to family of origin issues.
  2. Gather information identifying interpersonal relationship patterns than cue self-destructive behavior.
  3. Gather information about the patient's genogram for the purpose of understanding family misbehavior, so that the patient can develop empathy for targeted family members.
  4. Make a hypothesis about both the patient's current role in the family and the reasons the family seems to require this role.
  5. Plan a metacommunicative strategy designed to help the patient confront the problem with his or her family.
  6. Implement the strategy and obtain feedback about its effectiveness.

Treatment Manual

The treatment manual is available on line.


The following is a bibliography of material about Unified Therapy. More information about these books, as well as information on how to order them, is available by going to the hypertext link.

Allen, David M. Psychotherapy with Borderline Patients: an Integrated Approach. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum and Associates.

Allen, David M. A Family Systems Approach to Individual Psychotherapy. Northvale, NJ, Jason Aronson, 1988 ( Originally entitled, Unifying Individual and Family Therapies. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1988).

Allen, David M. Deciphering Motivation in Psychotherapy. New York, Plenum Publishers, 1991.

Allen, David M. "Unified Therapy", in Stricker, G & Gold, J., (Eds.), Comprehensive Handbook of Psychotherapy Integration. New York, Plenum Publishers, pp.125-137, 1993.

Allen, David M. and Farmer, Richard G. "Family Relationships of Adults with Borderline Personality Disorder." Comprehensive Psychiatry, Vol. 37 (1), pp.43-51, 1996.

Allen, David M. "Techniques for Reducing Therapy-Interfering Behavior in Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder: Similarities in Four Diverse Treatment Paradigms." Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, Vol. 6 (1), pp. 25-35, 1997.

Allen, David M. "Integrating Individual and Family Systems Psychotherapy to Treat Borderline Personality Disorder." Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, Vol 11 (3), pp. 313-331, 2001.

Allen, David M. and Whitson, S. “Avoiding Patient Distortions in Psychotherapy with Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.” Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, Vol. 34 (3), pp. 211-229, 2004.

Dr. David Allen

About Dr. Allen

David M. Allen, M.D., originally developed Unified Therapy during thirteen years of private practice in psychotherapy and psychiatry. Dr. Allen built his practice by accepting referrals of patients other therapists did not want to treat. This led to extensive experience with patients having borderline personality disorder or borderline traits.