Mentalization based treatment for borderline personality disorder

World Psychiatry. 2010 Feb;9(1):11-5. doi: 10.1002/j.2051-5545.2010.tb00255.x.


Mentalizing is the process by which we make sense of each other and ourselves, implicitly and explicitly, in terms of subjective states and mental processes. It is a profoundly social construct in the sense that we are attentive to the mental states of those we are with, physically or psychologically. Given the generality of this definition, most mental disorders will inevitably involve some difficulties with mentalization, but it is the application of the concept to the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD), a common psychiatric condition with important implications for public health, that has received the most attention. Patients with BPD show reduced capacities to mentalize, which leads to problems with emotional regulation and difficulties in managing impulsivity, especially in the context of interpersonal interactions. Mentalization based treatment (MBT) is a time-limited treatment which structures interventions that promote the further development of mentalizing. It has been tested in research trials and found to be an effective treatment for BPD when delivered by mental health professionals given limited additional training and with moderate levels of supervision. This supports the general utility of MBT in the treatment of BPD within generic mental health services.