McLean Hospital 115 Mill Street Belmont, MA 02478
The Gunderson Residence is a treatment setting for women with severe personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder including those who experience co-occurring psychiatric conditions such as substance use, eating disorders, depression, or anxiety.
Because borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex mental illness marked by unstable moods, behaviors, and relationships, individuals with complex personality disorders often require a contained residential setting that offers highly specialized therapeutic approaches in order to reach their treatment goals. Our residents benefit from an intensive program that integrates evidence-based therapy models in an environment that is conducive to focusing on improving interpersonal and relationships skills and refraining from self-destructive behaviors.
With an average stay of four months, our self-pay program offers treatment for women ages 21 and over. We specialize in care for individuals who have previously been through several treatment programs and as well as those who are seeking treatment for the first time. Women come to the Gunderson Residence from across the country and all over the world.
“The Gunderson Residence helped me reach my goals in a realistic way. They held my feet to the fire of changing, especially when I lacked confidence to take the steps that were necessary and manageable. I have been able to build a life of my own because of it.”– Former Gunderson resident
As part of McLean’s Division of Women’s Mental Health, the program utilizes treatment and therapy models informed by cutting-edge research. We provide tools and guidance to foster the self-reliance needed to build a balanced and more meaningful life. Tailored treatment approaches provide residents with the structure needed for change. Because of our high level of focus on personality disorders, our expert clinicians and support staff can provide a thoughtful integration of concepts and techniques to aid in recovery.
Family members and friends often play a major role in a resident’s long-term success. Since BPD and other personality disorders affect not only the individual but also the entire family, we offer a wide range of resources targeted at understanding and supporting a loved one in treatment.
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in close proximity to McLean’s main campus in Belmont, the residence is designed for community living in newly constructed townhouses less than two miles from Harvard Square and four miles from downtown Boston. Our open-door residential setting offers each resident a private bedroom in a comfortable and safe home-like environment. Residents have the opportunity to cook their own food or have their meals catered. Laundry facilities are onsite for convenience. Each resident also has a fitness membership to a premier sports club. Public transportation to sites in and around Cambridge and Boston is just steps from our front door. During off hours, residents can visit Harvard Square’s bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, museums, boutiques, and more.
The Gunderson Residence utilizes a range of evidence-based treatment and therapy models informed by cutting-edge research. We provide tools and guidance to foster the self-reliance residents need to build a more balanced, productive, and meaningful life.
Our multidisciplinary team of clinicians are experts in borderline personality disorder (BPD). They use a range of treatment methods, allowing care to be customized to the needs of the individual based on the type and severity of her specific symptoms. Upon admission, each resident receives a diagnostic assessment and completes an array of objective measures administered by our clinical team. We use these assessments to establish a care plan that incorporates the best therapies and strategies for addressing symptoms, identifying challenges, and setting goals.
Tailored treatment provides individuals with the structure needed for change and sets residents on a path towards recovery. With an emphasis on self-motivation, treatment plans regularly include a combination of individual and group therapies, a variety of behavioral therapies, and medications that help patients manage their symptoms and transition back to their daily lives.
Expert care is provided by clinicians who are devoted to improving the quality of life of residents and their families. Treatment includes expert evaluation, individual, group and family therapy, ongoing treatment reviews provided to women and their families, medication consultations, expressive therapy, vocational and educational counseling for transitional support, and coordination of care with referring clinicians and aftercare providers.
Our individual and group therapy model prioritizes treatment approaches such as:
Group therapy also incorporate activities such as mindfulness, community cooking, fitness, and community outings, and our expert clinicians cover a broach range of topics including interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, skills generalization, emotion regulation, and family issues.
We encourage residents to become involved with the larger community through part-time work, volunteer opportunities, and classes at local colleges and universities.
Family and friends are often incorporated into treatment. A family member, most commonly a parent and/or partner, is asked to work with a family therapist. Family and friends are a valuable tool in a patient’s recovery and long-term success, providing reinforcement for positive change and meeting treatment goals.
Support and education for patients, families, and friends is also integral to treatment success. In addition to patient education, the Gunderson Residence offers weekly private webinars for family members targeted to the specific needs of supporting a loved one with BPD. McLean’s Borderline Personality Disorder Patient and Family Education Initiative also provides interactive and on-demand resources such as educational webinars to support individuals and families affected by BPD.
Lois W. Choi-Kain, MEd, MD, Medical and Program Director
Dr. Choi-Kain’s areas of specialization include attachment, personality disorders, and psychotherapy, along with an integration of evidence-based treatments for borderline personality disorder (BPD). In addition to her clinical work, she actively conducts research and publishes papers on BPD while also providing training for clinicians in general psychiatric management (GPM) and mentalization-based treatment (MBT) approaches.
Brandon Unruh, MD, Assistant Medical Director
Dr. Unruh’s clinical approach is anchored in the integration of evidence-based treatments such as DBT, MBT, and GPM. He has published on a variety of topics including medical ethics, general hospital psychiatry, and literature and medicine. His academic interests also include the examination of philosophical and spiritual issues from psychiatric and psychoanalytic perspectives.
Karen L. Jacob, PhD, Director of Clinical Services
Dr. Jacob has an extensive clinical background in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for patients suffering from mood, anxiety, and personality disorders, and is trained in mindfulness, mentalization, DBT, and biofeedback therapies. As an author of numerous papers and presentations, her current research interests include understanding the relative impact of different components of treatment on outcome, as measured by both symptom and functional improvement.
John Gunderson, MD, Senior Consultant
Dr. Gunderson is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of McLean’s Borderline Center. His seminal studies on borderline personality disorder helped transform the diagnosis from a psychoanalytic construct into an empirically validated and internationally recognized disorder and earned him recognition as the “father” of this disorder. He also developed the evidence-based therapy general psychiatric management, which he and fellow McLean clinicians teach throughout the country.
Joan Wheelis, MD, Senior Consultant
Dr. Wheelis is an assistant professor of psychiatry, part-time, at Harvard Medical School and on the faculty of the MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program. Her current clinical interests include the outpatient treatment of borderline personality disorder, the nature of psychotherapeutic change, and forensic consultation regarding suicide.
Our multidisciplinary staff is comprised of board-certified psychiatrists, licensed psychologists and family therapists, registered nurses, clinical social workers, a full-time occupational therapist, and community residence counselors. This highly trained team has extensive background in the treatment of severe personality disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. Our clinicians have experience working with patients from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds from across the country and around the globe.
The Gunderson Residence operates within the Division of Women’s Mental Health, led by Shelly F. Greenfield, MD, MPH.
McLean Hospital staff have penned more than 50 books in recent years, including several titles by members of the Gunderson staff.
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Gunderson Residence is designed for community residential living in newly constructed townhouses minutes from downtown Cambridge and Boston. The residence’s open-door setting offers each resident a modern and comfortable private bedroom and shared bathrooms so that she can feel safe and comfortable while focusing on treatment. Our courtyard provides a peaceful setting for residents to relax and is also available for family visits.
Residents have the opportunity to cook their own food or have their meals catered. Our spacious, modern, and well-designed kitchen is ideal for community cooking classes or for residents who prefer to prepare their own meals. This warm and inviting area helps residents feel comfortable during their stay at the residence.
All living areas have been designed with the serenity of a home environment in mind—from quality furnishings and artwork to the peaceful surroundings of the grounds. Laundry facilities are onsite for convenience. Each resident also has a fitness membership to a premier sports club, which is included in the program cost.
Outside of the treatment schedule, the Gunderson Residence offers an array of onsite leisure activities, or residents can visit area bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, museums, boutiques, and more. Located less than two miles from Harvard Square and four miles from downtown Boston, public transportation to various local sites is just steps from our front door.
The Gunderson Residence is suitable for women ages 21 and over who have BPD and other complex personality disorders, with or without co-occurring mental health conditions such as addiction, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Our program integrates evidence-based treatments in an intensive setting that is conducive to helping residents focus on their interpersonal skills and relationships as well as refrain from self-destructive behaviors. Women come to the Gunderson Residence from across the United States and the world. We can help arrange admission from most domestic or international locations.
We look forward to speaking with you about the treatment opportunities at the Gunderson Residence. For more information or to make a referral, please contact our admissions coordinator:
We hope to answer your call directly or will return your call or email within one business day.
Prospective residents are interviewed and evaluated prior to admission to ensure the best chance of success. Independent motivation to change is an essential requirement and while family members or clinicians may see the Gunderson Residence as a good fit, the individual must be ready to actively participate in her recovery—regardless of outside factors such as pending legal charges. In addition, adequate levels of physical health and sobriety are reviewed to determine whether this level of care is appropriate for the individual.
The fee for the Gunderson Residence is $1,350 per day with a minimum stay of 60 days. Residents stay with us an average of four months. We are a self-pay program and do not accept insurance or any third party reimbursement.
If you seek to use insurance for residential treatment, please consider the Hill Center for Women.
The program is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For more information on directions, parking, and local accommodations, please visit our Maps & Directions page.
Our residential program focuses on treating women with personality disorders, including those whose borderline personality disorder is complicated by other psychiatric illnesses.
Family members, most commonly parents and/or spouses, will be assigned to work with a family therapist weekly or every other week, in person or over the phone. Additionally, we provide web-based family psychoeducation seminars.
Our program is non-smoking. No e-cigarettes are allowed.
Privileges for visitation will be determined by each resident’s clinical team and will require permission in advance. Visitation is not allowed during clinical hours or community activities.
Residents are allowed to hold and use their cell phones and computers, except during treatment, with some guidelines to prevent disruption of the program and other residents. Photos are not allowed. Devices may be confiscated if not used appropriately.
Privacy is of the utmost importance to the Gunderson Residence and we ensure confidentiality through our highly trained, professional and discreet staff. No third party, whether known to the resident or not, has access to medical records, health information, or any information about a resident’s stay without prior, written authorization from the resident.
From helpful online resources to self-help groups and more, McLean Hospital is committed to providing support and mental health education to aid patients and families on the path to recovery.
At the Gunderson Residence, we hold private, weekly webinars for family members to help educate them, provide regular patient updates, and address concerns and questions they may have. McLean’s Borderline Personality Disorder Patient and Family Education Initiative also provides interactive and on-demand resources such as educational webinars to support individuals and families affected by BPD.
The treatment team works closely with the individual as well as with family, significant friends, and outside providers to develop a personalized aftercare plan. Recommendations by staff are made based upon clinical needs, progress made during treatment, and long-term treatment goals.
All requests for medical records should be directed to McLean's Health Information Management Department.
To complement our programs’ services and encourage individuals’ initiatives in their own treatment course, many self-help groups are hosted by McLean.
McLean is dedicated to maintaining high-quality and effective patient care. To ensure that those standards remain at the highest level, we utilize a number of feedback instruments and quality indicators. Among these tools are the Perceptions of Care survey which monitors patient satisfaction and BASIS-24™, a psychiatric outcomes measurement tool created at McLean and widely used in the US and around the world, which delivers feedback on the patient care experience.