New Musical Stars Real Borderline Personality Disorder Patient And Her Real-Life Therapist

November 6, 2014 | Amy K. Nelson

In what would is probably safe to assume is a first, a patient who has borderline personality disorder is staging a musical with her therapist.

The patient, 49-year-old Jill Powell, and the doctor, 56-year-old Cecilia Dintino, will be performing “Borderline,” their two-person play starting next week. On Thursday, The New York Times ran a feature about the two women and just how complex and unique a their situation is.

Both women have backgrounds in acting and theatre. Powell was a soap opera actress in the ’80s, and worked on Broadway in the ’90s — including alongside Tony Randall — but her work has been stagnant over the past 15 years as her disorder-related difficulties have spiraled. She is broke and homeless and its unclear how she affords her sessions with Dintino, a clinical psychologist who runs a drama therapy program at NYU.

Their relationship off the stage is closer than what is normal for a patient and therapist, but it’s part of the reason why both were willing to risk breaking with convention. Reports The Times:

Dr. Dintino said that her behavioral approach to Ms. Powell’s condition allows for a more personal relationship with the patient than conventional psychotherapy, and for looser guidelines when it comes to patient-therapist relations.

Ms. Powell was willing to bare all as a patient, and both women felt the risks were outweighed by the potential therapeutic value, as well as the attention that the show could bring to the disorder.

Dintino’s partner at NYU, Dr. Robert Landy, came up with the concept, and brushes aside the notion that a musical that is acting out what is essentially both of these women’s real lives, is a conflict of interest, or worse.

“With certain forms of mental illness that do not respond to conventional treatment, we need a more radical approach, which therapeutic theater can provide,” Landy said.

Both women hope the show will bring more attention to the disease. It runs Nov. 13-16 at the Provincetown Playhouse in NYC.

(Photo: David Ciriello)