Mentalisation-Based Therapy

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Are you the type who often tries to analyse others? Only for them to get upset with you, and tell you that you have it all wrong? Do you often feel misunderstood and lonely yourself?

Mentalisation-based therapy (MBT) can help.

What is mentalisation-based therapy?

‘Mentalising’ is thinking about thinking. We all do it. We think about what others think of us, or we go over our own thoughts about something or someone. And then we form opinions and make choices based on our conclusions.

Mentalisation-based therapy believes the reason some of us have troubled relationships is because we constantly have incorrect and confused thoughts about ourselves and others. It’s aim as a psychotherapy is to help you improve your thinking so you make better choices.

What are the benefits of trying this therapy?

A medium to long-term therapy, MBT helps you to:

  • recognise when you are making assumptions
  • understand yourself and others better
  • take control of your feelings and behaviours
  • improve your relationships
  • feel less lonely and misunderstood.

Examples of ‘mentalising’

Most of us have done some poor mentalising at some point or another. An example is when we are very angry and our rage means our thoughts become one-sided.

Or when we are in love. Suddenly we see things in an exaggerated way and think we understand someone completely when we just met them. We jump in, only to perhaps regret it later when are thoughts again become clear.

Good mentalising vs poor mentalising

Some of us constantly struggle with mentalising, not just when emotional. An example is someone being late to meet you for a date.

Good mentalising means you calmly assume the traffic was bad and wait for them to arrive and explain otherwise.

Bad mentalising means you panic, decide they don't really like you, or that you did something wrong, then send off a nasty text before you can stop yourself.

This is a good example of why mentalising matters. It dictates our beliefs and then our actions. Which in turn affects our relationships and things like our career.

Why am I so bad at mentalising?

It is generally because of things we experience in childhood. Childhood trauma is a main culprit. It affects the way we see ourselves and others. We mistrust not just the world and others, but our own thoughts and feelings.

Poor parenting is also a reason. Perhaps we grew up in a family that didn’t support us, or care what we thought. We end up the type who questions our own beliefs and doesn't trust others to be there for us.

Or perhaps we had a caregiver as an infant who didn’t offer us the security we needed, and was unavailable to our needs, or responded to us with anxiety. We don't learn how to organise our feelings. Or we end up anxious ourselves, and an over-thinker.

What issues does mentalisation-based therapy treat?

It’s especially good at helping with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It also helps with:

Do I have to talk about my past a lot?

MBT can be quite present-focused. So instead of delving deeply into what happened to you as a child, you'll look at challenges you had in the week. How did you respond? What did you assume the other person thought and felt? What might you think or do differently next time?

Ready to be a clearer thinker and understand others and yourself better? Book a therapist today and talk your way forward.

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