The Concept of Mentalisation

United Kingdom

Many of our speakers discuss the importance of mentalisation. For example, Jenny Perkel mentions that mentalisation is something that therapists should model for parents when working with their children; Yvette Esprey talks about how difficulty with mentalisation is part of the clinical presentation in Borderline Personality Disorder; Vanessa Hemp discusses it when talking about psychotherapy with adolescents and Ella Brent uses the concept often in talking about Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. So what exactly is it?

Mentalization refers to the ability to reflect upon and to understand one's own state of mind and the state of mind of the other. This includes the capacity to have insight into what one is feeling, and why, and to make inferences, based on these, as to the motivations of one’s own and other’s behaviour. This is one of the main building blocks for intersubjectivity, attachment and relationships.

The theory posits that mentalisation develops throughcontingent(accurate) andmarked(exaggerated or different) mirroring by caregivers, and it is through this process that children learn that they are beings with minds of their own and are then able to relate to others as being with minds. If the mirroring is notcontingent, the child will identify incorrectly with emotions that he or she sees on the parent’s face, and develop a false or ‘alien’ self. If the affect is notmarked, the child will not understand that the affect being reflected belongs to him, but will rather believe it to be the parent’s expression of their own feeling.

Peter Fonagy, a British psychoanalyst, has written extensively on the topic[i], theorising that a poor ability to mentalise is a large part of the difficulty facing people with Borderline Personality Disorder. In line with his thinking, he developed a treatment model, Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT), aimed at teaching patient with Borderline Personality Disorder traits to mentalize, thus developing a more coherent sense of self and better relationships with other people.

Watch the following interview with Fonagay where he explains mentalization. He expands on some of the processes involved in its development and how problems related to poor mentalization can occur.


[i] See Affect Regulation, Mentalisation and the Development of the Self Fonagay, P. & Jurist E.L; The Handbook of Mentalization-Based Treatment Allan, J.G & Fonagay, P. for examples

CalabashArticlesPartnersContributorsSpeakersTalksSign upSign inProfileEthicsPsychologistsRegistered CounsellorsExamining Exams: School, Stress, and the Impact on Young MindsWhy conventional hearing tests are not sufficientCommon Medications for DepressionHospital settingNote TakingSex therapyTreatment of Conversation in Stroke PatientsNature vs. Nurture: Understanding the link between psychology and geneticsBullying: Managing a Social CrueltyUploading an ArticleUploading a TalkAbout ContributorsCalabashArticlesPartnersContributorsSpeakersTalksSign upSign inProfileOccupational TherapistsPsychiatristsEthicsThe Concept of MentalisationReveries: Reflections on Psychoanalytic WorkWhen things seem to be falling apart, just go to the bathroom: Insights and Tools from sports and performance psychologyAddictionTherapySex therapySexuality: Freud and BeyondCore Elements to Suicide Risk AssessmentGrappling with the Gifts & Challenges of the Online WorldHow It WorksUploading an ArticleUploading a TalkCalabashArticlesPartnersContributorsSpeakersTalksSign upSign inProfileAudiologistsPsychologistsSpeech TherapistsExamining Exams: School, Stress, and the Impact on Young MindsColinda Linde on Note TakingWhy Would a Baby Need a PsychiatristHypnotherapyPOPI actExpert OpinionMotor PlanningIntroduction to Schema Therapy - Part 1 - Core Childhood Needs & Maladaptive SchemasDemystifying TinnitusTerms of UseAbout PartnersHow It WorksCalabashArticlesPartnersContributorsSpeakersTalksSign upSign inProfileRegistered CounsellorsMedical ProfessionalsOccupational TherapistsAn Intro to Marketing for Healthcare ProfessionalsWorking with Impilo: The Experience of Assessing Parents for AdoptionMultilingualism & Speech TherapyJungian AnalysisRehabilitationUlwaluko kwa XhosaSensory & Emotional Regulation 4: Picky eatingBuilding Brains: Interpreting CT and MRI scan results and paper casesWomen and Girls on the Autism Spectrum: An introductionFrequently Asked QuestionsAbout CalabashHow It WorksCalabashArticlesPartnersContributorsSpeakersTalksSign upSign inProfilePsychologistsMedical ProfessionalsRegistered CounsellorsColinda Linde on Note TakingExamining Exams: School, Stress, and the Impact on Young MindsA bit about SANDTABrain InjuryCleftCoachingNeurodevelopmental Disorders are plural: Exploring co-occurring difficultiesUse of low-tech tools and devices in Hand Therapy : The Hand and FingersPhobia: Putting Exposure into PracticeAbout CalabashTerms of UseUploading a TalkCalabashArticlesPartnersContributorsSpeakersTalksSign upSign inProfileOccupational TherapistsMedical ProfessionalsSpeech TherapistsTeletherapy in Speech Therapy: Some Surprising BenefitsShape Shifters and the Vascular LabyrinthUnderstanding Complex PTSDBreastfeedingAppsRacePerspectives on the Oedipus Complex: Freud, Klein & LacanAn Introduction to Child-Centred MediationTime-Limited Psychodynamic PsychotherapyTerms of UseAbout CalabashPrivacy Policy gearbox repairs, Johannesburg Makeup Artist, Johannesburg Psychologist, Sydney