OBJECTIVE: To describe the concept of mentalization, and its application in understanding the development of psychopathology in patients with borderline personality disorder; to give an account of the main features of mentalization-based treatment; to summarise the evidence supporting its effectiveness.
DISCUSSION: Mentalization is a predominantly preconscious mental activity that enables the individual to understand him/herself and others in terms of subjective states and mental processes. Psychological trauma in childhood is associated with deficits in mentalization and with the development of borderline personality disorder. Mentalization-based treatment is a psychodynamically-oriented manualized psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder that aims to develop a therapeutic process in which the patient's capacity for mentalization becomes the focus of treatment. Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of this treatment for patients with borderline personality disorder.
CONCLUSIONS: The development of a psychodynamically-oriented therapeutic intervention that specifically targets the deficits involved in the psychopathology of borderline personality disorder is a crucial step in increasing the effectiveness of treatment. Mental health professionals should be adequately prepared to deliver effective interventions to their patients, such as mentalization-based treatment.
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