Mentalization is a robust construct that has given rise to mentalizing based therapy (MBT). MBT is directly related to and arose from attachment research and attachment theory.
One of our primary survival mechanisms, especially for infants, is our attachment to our caregivers. These attachment relationships are optimal when they are secure and safe because children have little chance of survival in the world without caregivers. If these attachments are disrupted or at worst damaged, or there is trauma or violence or neglect, and abuse, those attachment relationships, and the biological mechanism of attachment, can be injured or impaired. This is how a child at a young age is traumatized by the people who are responsible for their safety and care. These children can grow up with a traumatized sense of the world, and ridged working models of others, and themselves. They may learn how to survive but do not leave childhood with a sense of how to thrive.
MBT is very effective approach within this kind of developmental presentation. MBT arose directly from of the observation that imbedded within a securely based attachment relationships, is the parents’ ability to effectively mentalize or reflect, hold in mind, and reflect understandings of the inner thoughts, feelings, sensations, in a child in a moment and to help them understand themselves in the world and that they are caring for.
A good mentalizing based therapist is looking to actively hold in mind and reflect congruent understanding the inner world of their client. In that place, they put the client’s inner world in reflective language. This congruent, in the moment reflective shared space helps the client organize their inner selves while simultaneously regulating previously overwhelming imbedded emotions. The MBT therapist has also simultaneously, aware of themselves in the relationship and holds their own mind as an important part of the therapeutic process. MBT is a wonderful jewel of a treatment method. I personally have really enjoy working from mentalizing perspective while also holding a trauma informed practice.