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Mentalization-Based Therapy

Mentalization-Based Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is based on the principles of Psychodynamic Psychotherapy and Attachment Theory, and which was developed for treating severe Personality Disorders, especially Borderline Personality Disorder.

Attachment Theory views the emotional bonds that a child develops with his or her parents or primary caretakers as one of the most important influences on a person's life-long capacity to trust and relate to others, manage stress, and regulate one's emotions. These early attachment experiences are also the context in which a child learns how to understand and interpret the intentions and states of mind of other people as well as their own states of mind and emotional reactions. This process is called mentalization because it involves the ability to have a mental representation of people's states of mind, that is, some kind of a (more or less accurate) theory of what people may be thinking and feeling.

Individuals who had very insecure and troubled emotional bonds with their parents while growing up tend to have significant problems with mentalization; they will have trouble reading other people's states of mind and will also have trouble predicting their own emotional responses to situations. This can leave them in a position where they are always misinterpreting other people's intentions, having significant difficulty trusting others, and also reacting inappropriately to situations.

In Mentalization-Based Therapy, the goal is to teach individuals how to mentalize. This is thought to help improve their overall state of mental health by giving them the tools to regulate more effectively their emotional reactions and to have an easier time relating to other people. The style of the therapy tends to follow many of the same principles and techniques as in Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, but with an emphasis on helping the client (ie. patient) understand their mental states, as well as those of the therapist, in real-time during the often emotionally-charged sessions.

Mentalization-Based Therapy is an intensive form of psychotherapy, which tends to include twice weekly individual sessions and weekly group sessions over the course of a couple of years. It remains a highly specialized form of psychotherapy that is available only in select treatment centers.