Types of psychotherapies treating mental illnesses- Part 3: Mentalization Based Therapy

Types of psychotherapies treating mental illnesses- Part 3: Mentalization Based Therapy

Treating mental disorders requires precision and expertise. While there are several kinds of mental disorders, it is often difficult to diagnose the prevailing mental condition because of several reasons such as similarity in the symptoms or delay in seeking medical help, among others. As a result, over the years, several therapies and medications were evolved to treat all kinds of mental disorders. One of the most common therapies used to treat such illnesses is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. As the name suggests, it involves regular sessions with patients where they are encouraged to talk about their feelings, their past, etc., to understand the cause of their disorder.

Different types of psychotherapies are designed to deal with different kinds of mental illnesses. For instance, while exposure therapy is chiefly designed to address the issue of anxiety disorders in patients, motivational interviewing involves exploring and resolving the behavioral issues resulting from the mental ailment. Similarly, Mentalization Based Therapy (MBT) takes care of people particularly suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD). The technique involves engaging in an important skill called mentalizing.

Defining borderline personality disorder

BPD is a serious mental disorder wherein the patient experiences instability in moods, behavior, self-image and functioning. Often, people with BPD suffer from co-occurring mental disorders, such as mood disorder, anxiety disorder and eating disorder, which leads to intense episodes of anger, impulsive actions and unstable relationships. It is usually associated with substance abuse problems, inducing self-harm, suicidal thinking and behaviors, and even suicide.

One of the major drawbacks of the disorder is that while people with BPD long for intimacy and companionship, their impulsive and aggressive behavior often alienates people, turning them into loners. The symptoms of BPD are difficult to diagnose and can be observed in almost anybody undergoing stress. However, in patients with BPD, these symptoms are persistent. Many people with BPD are also diagnosed with additional mental illnesses including psychosis.

Treating BPD with MBT

Ideally, people with BPD have a decreased capacity for mentalization (the ability to understand the effect, specific mental conditions has on the behavior and feelings of oneself and in others). Hence, MBT involves the intuitive process of realizing the sense of self, wherein the patients are trained to understand and perceive their feelings and thoughts. The skill further helps the patients fight their sense of emptiness and unstable self-image, thereby helping them to connect with others and build relationships.

The process of mentalization focuses on helping the patient form social relationships, starting with the patient developing an attachment with the therapist. Through this, the person learns the difference between his/ her inner experience, the point of view given by the therapist and his/her attachment to the therapist. Though it may cause discomfort for the patient since they have a hyperactive attachment system, but without it, they would never learn how to develop healthy relationships. MBT is practiced in a safe and supportive environment which increases the person’s ability to mentalize and build empathy.

Unlike other therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), MBT is less directive and also does not follow any strict structure and is typically long-term. Though the technique can also be practiced under non-specialist mental health practitioners, in individual and group settings, however, it is always recommended to consult a specialist for better results.

Road to recovery

With the increasing success rate of the therapy, many rehab centers have included MBT in their recovery programs. Psychotherapies are often considered as an alternate treatment to cure mental disorders. The series “Types of psychotherapies treating mental illnesses” talks about the benefits and kinds of physiotherapies used for treating mental disorders.  While many patients are treated using psychotherapy alone, many require a combination of therapy and medication, depending on the severity.

If your loved one is suffering from any kind of mental illness or anxiety disorder, contact the California Mental Health Helpline to know about the reputed mental health facilities in California. You may call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online to speak with our representatives who are committed to guiding you to one of the best mental health centers in California.

Read the other articles of the series “Types of psychotherapies treating mental illnesses” :

Part 1: Exposure Therapy

Part 2: Motivational Interviewing