What is Mentalization-Based Therapy?
Mentalization-Based Therapy is an evidence based form of psychodynamic therapy. It was originally developed to help people with borderline personality disorder. Currently, it is used to help people with a variety of personality disorders. People with personality disorders are often stuck in habitual ways of perceiving. This means that they tend to think, feel, and act in predictable patterns, even in different contexts or situations. These patterns tend to be rigid instead of flexible. This can create a mismatch between how a situation in intended versus how it is perceived.
Mentalization-Based Therapy focuses on helping people to mentalize more accurately. Successful mentalizing means being able understand one’s own mental states (thoughts, feelings, wishes, beliefs, intentions) as well as the mental states of other people. When mentalization is hampered, people tend to overreact to perceive hurts, and this can create tumultuous or broken interpersonal relationships. Therefore, successful mentalizing aims to help people navigate interpersonal relationships with more finesse, to as to keep them intact. Therapy can involve discussing thoughts, feelings, and intentions with the therapist – in a safe space, so that the accuracy of mentalization can be enhanced.
Early life experiences tend to impact one’s capacity for mentalization. Mentalizing deficits are thought to occur in the context of a disrupted or dysfunctional developmental attachment system. The ways that caregivers perceived us, tend to influence how we come to perceive ourselves, and how we imagine that other people perceive us. If parents can accurately mirror what children are feeling, children can come to feel understood and well organized. However, if parents misperceive our mental states, we can develop uncertainty or confusion about what we or others are actually thinking or feeling, resulting in a disorganized mental state.