Mentalization is a therapeutic approach that has been shown to help people suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD). Furthermore, mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is also helpful in treating both teens and adults for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and eating disorders.

What Is Mentalization?

Mentalization-based therapy helps a person identify and understand their emotions and the emotional responses of others. Thus, mentalizing refers to the intuitive process that reflects one’s autonomous sense of self. In other words, mentalization helps a person consciously perceive and understand their inner world. Furthermore, MBT therapy can help an individual foster positive connections with others by developing appropriate social skills.

Mentalization is effective with hard-to-treat borderline personality disorders because people with BPD cannot picture and understand their autonomous selves. Therefore, this lack of personality definition leads to a sense of emptiness, over-attachment to others, and difficulty empathizing or even recognizing the inner lives of other people. However, through MBT therapy, people with challenging mental conditions can access long-term recovery.

The process of mentalizing through MBT therapy is informed by psychodynamic therapy, which raises awareness of unconscious processes, and motivational interviewing, which empowers the individual. Additionally, MBT therapy and the term “mentalization” originated at the Ecole Psychosomatique de Paris in the 1970s. Originally, MBT therapy was developed to address and repair attachment-related childhood trauma. As a result, mentalization is often helpful for younger populations.

Sources: World Psychiatric Association (NLM-NIH)Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services AdministrationNational Alliance on Mental Illness