The concept of mentalization-based therapy (MBT) emerged in France some time during the 1960s. However, it was not until recently that clinical applications emerged. MBT focuses on helping people understand their own thoughts and feelings as well as predict the behavior of others. Clinical treatment has seen MBT used by foster families to create strong bonds and allow for better individual understanding. MBT is also being used to treat depression, eating disorders, and bipolar disorders in teenagers as well as adults. Those who are often unable to regulate their emotions and mistrust those around them see the best results. Eventually, with treatment and the building of a “secure base,” the person in treatment learns to find a more balanced perspective.
Most clinical uses of MBT have shown promise. Part of this may be due to aligning focus in treatments on the importance of the individual beyond their symptoms and instead seeing the individual as a part of the whole of humanity. There are five main mentalization-based techniques used in treatment; support and empathy, clarification, exploration, challenging, and transference. It takes all five mentalization techniques to move toward improvement.
Many of these techniques are combined in one activity during an MBT session. For example, a clinician might provide a client with a Dream Journey. A Dream Journey helps a client to find a safe space away from emotional tensions and stress. Once this “secure base” is established the client can begin identifying their personal feelings about the relationships in their life. At any time during this session, the client can be instructed to return to their “secure base”. This can be especially helpful when the client is prompted to view their relationships from the other person’s perspective—a challenging task to say the least!
The goal of therapy is to connect each person to their humanity, transcending their individual limitations. Once an individual learns to connect with others and to see experiences through different perspectives, we become better connected with all of humanity.
Bateman, A., & Fonagy, P. 2016. Mentalization-based Treatment for Personality Disorders: A Practical Guide. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Madeson, Melissa, Ph.D. 2022. “Mentalization-Based Therapy Guide: Best Worksheets and Techniques. Positive Psychology.
Masterpasqua, F. 2016. “Mindfulness Mentalizing Humanism: A Transtheoretical Convergence.” Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 26(1), 5–10. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039635
Shaw, Chloe, Chris Lo, Anne Lanceley, Sarah Hales, and Gary Rodin. 2020. “The Assessment of Mentalization: Measures for the Patient, the Therapist and the Interaction.” Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 50 (1) (03): 57-65. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-019-09420-z