The mentalizing focus and basic interventions

Anthony W. Bateman and Peter Fonagy

in Mentalization-based Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780198570905
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754456 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

The mentalizing focus and basic interventions

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In MBT the therapist’s goal is to learn more about how a person is thinking and feeling. This requires the therapist to constantly explore the current state of mind of the patient whilst putting forward his own understanding of the patient’s state of mind. The purpose is to stimulate the patient to use his own mind further to understand his mental states and those of others, including the therapist’s. The therapist’s task is to develop this joint process in therapy and to maintain the mentalizing focus throughout treatment. When the patient questions your view, you should give a clear explanation of how you have come to your opinion and express any uncertainties you have about your perspective. As the interaction develops, you may change your mind about your understanding of the patient’s experience and you should be able to demonstrate this to the patient if further mentalizing is to be stimulated. A statement from a therapist such as ‘I understand now what you are saying. That means that what I said is not quite right. Perhaps it is more like…’ is a valuable way to stimulate mentalizing in the patient and to demonstrate interpersonal respect. This ‘models’ reflectiveness and allows the patient to recognize that having one’s mind changed by another mind is not humiliating but constructive and developmental in a relationship.

There are a number of techniques that are likely to promote mentalizing. Many of these are well known to therapists; you may well begin to feel as you read this section that you are already doing much of what is described here. Our aim is not to teach new techniques but to recommend that you focus therapy differently by placing greater emphasis on some aspects of treatment whilst reducing others.

Chapter.  10516 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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