Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT) was developed in the early 90s, by Professor Anthony Bateman and Professor Peter Fonagy with the aim to manage symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). This evidence-based approach has been proven to be effective in treating BPD.  Due to its effectiveness, it has also been applied to Antisocial Personality Disorder, addiction, depression and can be useful in both adolescent and family therapy.


What is Mentalizing?

MBT is based on developing the ability to mentalize our thoughts and feelings. Mentalizing is the process through which we can take a step back to understand and reflect on our and others’ emotions and intentions. Mentalization helps us develop insight into what our emotions are and why we feel them. Therefore, mentalization is key to effective emotional regulation. Difficulties in emotional regulation are a common characteristic of personality disorders. Thus, effective treatment needs to focus on the patient’s ability to mentalise.


Our ability to mentalise largely depends on if our mental states during our childhood were understood by caring, attentive and non-threatening adults. Mentalising is affected by childhood psychological trauma. A secure relationship with your carer in your childhood increases mentalizing abilities. The parental capacity to understand the child’s emotional and mental experiences by meeting their emotional and physical needs contributes to the healthy emotional regulation of the child. However, a disturbance in this relationship inhibits the development of mentalising.


A person with an underdeveloped mentalising process will be unable to manage negative emotions such as anger, rejection and jealousy.  This can lead to feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions and it may lead to physical expressions of these feelings. This can manifest as difficulty in maintaining relationships and experiencing intense emotional distress that can be expressed in harmful physical ways such as self-harm or aggression.


How can MBT help?

The goal of MBT is to recover the process and ability of mentalization and to stabilise emotional expression. Any outbreaks of extreme emotions are understood by looking at the context and factors that caused the enactment. MBT focuses on understanding your own and others’ feelings better with the aim to improve emotional regulation and consequently improve relationships with others. Improving mentalizing leads to experiencing a more stable sense of self. Therefore, through MBT you can work towards avoiding feeling overwhelmed by your emotions; if you do become overwhelmed you can regain your composure faster, and understand other people better.


We have members in our team who are trained in MBT so if you would like to find out more or would like to book an initial consultation, please email info@usintherapy.com for more information.