What is Mentalization Based Treatment?

Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT) was originally developed as a day-hospital treatment program for borderline personality disorder (BPD) in adults, (Bateman and Fonagy 1999; Bateman and Fonagy 2001) and subsequently adapted for outpatient treatment for a range of different disorders, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders as well as antisocial personality disorder (Bateman and Fonagy 2016). MBT is an evidence-based treatment that has been shown to be highly effective in treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). As a result, it has gained national and international attention.  There is evidence that impaired mentalizing contributes to the difficulties in self-regulation and relationships associated with personality disorders. This is because impairments in mentalizing contribute to misunderstandings regarding the reactions of others, thus making it difficult to understand emotional reactions, thoughts and actions, and as a result contributing to difficulties in interactions and breakdown of relationships. For these reasons, impaired mentalizing is also considered a generic risk factor, increasing vulnerability to a range of psychological difficulties. As result, helping individuals to improve mental health, social functioning and relationships through developing the capacity to mentalize is the central aim of therapeutic interventions and forms the core of MBT. Within the MBT approach the focus is primarily on mental states in the here-and-now.