Mentalization-Based treatment is highly effective in helping people who are particularly prone to experiencing intense and overwhelming emotional distress which can lead to impulsive and self-destructive behaviors, a fluctuating “sense of self” and difficulties trusting others and understanding their intentions. Mentalizing is our normal, automatic tendency to try to make sense of our actions and feelings and those of others by reflecting on mental states (e.g. thoughts, emotions, beliefs, intentions).
The capacity to mentalize develops throughout childhood and adolescence and is influenced by many factors. If we are able to rely on our ability to mentalize, we feel more secure in our ability to understand our social interactions and relationships, –what is causing our own reactions, emotions, thoughts and actions and those of others. It also allows us to manage our emotions and behavior, maintain a confident, efficacious, stable sense of self, and involve ourselves in satisfying and meaningful relationships.
In some persons, the capacity to mentalize is much more fragile. In these people, mentalization may occur when stress levels are low, but it tends to collapse in the face of stress; especially stress caused by disappointed or rejecting interpersonal experiences. When mentalizing collapses, confusion regarding one’s own thoughts and feelings and those of the other take over. This intensifies distressing emotions and any stable, secure sense of self is undermined. Distortions and distrust of the intentions of others is more likely, and impulsive behaviors occur often as a way to cope with chaotic and painful feelings.
Teaching individuals to mentalize consistently as a therapeutic intervention forms the core of Mentalization-Based Treatment. The mind of the client becomes the treatment focus and the goal is to enhance and strengthen the ability to mentalize. MBT continually focuses clients on understanding how they experience themselves and others and how those thoughts and feelings influence their behavior. This frequently includes reflecting on how difficulties and distortions in “reading” people can often lead to emotional overreactions and serious maladaptive actions. Our focus on continually improving mentalization capacity is meant to help people gain a comprehensive understanding of themselves including their emotional responses in certain contexts, mood changes and self-destructive behaviors. By also focusing on an understanding of the feelings and reactions of others, MBT can lead to a new, more objective perspective on the feelings and reactions of others.
PCH Treatment Center offers a mentalization track for clients experiencing emotional dysregulation. MBT components include individual psychotherapy, exploratory group therapy and psycho-educational group therapy.