WHAT IS MENTALISATION BASED THERAPY

Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) aims to help you by understanding how other people's intentions are interpreted and how their state of mind could influence your behaviour. It is a very specific form of psychotherapy.

Mentalisation (with a 'z' for our American cousins) is the ability to understand feelings and behaviours, in ourselves as well as other people, and how they can impact on our mental state,  It plays a small part in many other forms of treatment, but a much larger one in MBT (no surprise there, given it's name).

In this day of social interconnectivity, It can be so easy to misinterpret the meaning or intentions of what other people say or do and, as such, it can affect our mood. As so much of our interpersonal communication is now done via the power of the internet, interpreting tone or intention from a text, an instant or Facebook message can mean that we mistake what they've said (or intended to say) for what we 'think' they've said.

This confusion can often come from our past experiences and, even though it may be historic in nature, it can impact on the here and now. MBT aims to reverse that by giving you a clearer understanding not only of our own intentions, but those of other people too. Look at MBT as a way of  'thinking about thinking' and how being upset or distressed limits your ability to think clearly. Still confused? Let's try this with a simple example.

Let's imagine you text a friend or partner and they don't text back immediately. In reality, it could be that their phone battery is dead, they have no signal, they're busy with other things, they're at the cinema or any number of perfectly viable reasons. But, by not getting a reply, you begin to think they've gone off you, don't want to know you anymore or are cheating on you. You begin to feel anxious or depressed because their intentions, however innocent, have had a negative bearing on your mood.

HOW DOES MENTALISATION BASED THERAPY WORK?

Within the confines of the therapy session (either one-to-one or as a group), mentalisation, as a skill, can be practised in a safe and supportive environment. It aims to focus, not on the past or what it means, but on your understanding in the here and now.

It's about managing the emotional response to what is brought up and being able to differentiate your own thoughts and feelings from those of other people.

Because everyone is different, mentalisation therapy sessions are designed to be more dynamic. They will generally not follow a set path. Instead they'll be lead by the person(s) being treated, letting the session wander depending on what topics they bring up. The therapist will act as a inquisitor and should adopt a 'not-knowing' mannerism, without assuming they know what's to come, despite their experience.

Therapy usually lasts for over a year, normally around 18 months. The first 3 months or so will be an introductory stage which will involve getting to know everyone involved. It will take a commitment from all parties to stay the course. The intensity of the course, and the topics brought up, should be carefully designed so you don't become overwhelmed by any difficult thoughts or feelings.

WHO IS MBT FOR?

Because of how it works, mentalisation based therapy works best for those with Borderline Personality Disorder (but not exclusively). Any condition that holds an unhealthy attachment to 'something' can be treated).

For people who live with BPD, they tend to have problems in their relationships with other people and can, unconsciously, manipulate them or exploit the relationship for their own needs. They may not recognise how their behaviour affects other people or be able to empathise with them.

It can also lead to further complications as they struggle to interpret their own experiences and perspectives with those of other people.

Throw into the mix the attachments they can have to those people and others, can lead to even more instability in their relationships. With so many confusing and conflicting thoughts, it can be problematic which is why MBT works especially well with BPD.


If you'd like to share your experiences of MBT (or any other treatment) with our community so they can better understand how it helped you, please take a look at our 'Men Tell' section.