A User-Friendly Approach to Mentalizing for Psychotherapists and their Patients

 “Mentalizing” is an unfortunately technical term for the natural human capacity to interpret behavior in relation to mental states. Thus mentalizing entails thinking and feeling about thinking and feeling in self and others—in short, holding mind in mind. Mentalizing capacity develops optimally in secure childhood attachment relationships, and mentalizing promotes emotion regulation and attachment security throughout life.

Psychotherapy has the potential to enhance mentalizing in the context of attachment, and we have come to view mentalizing as the fundamental common factor in therapeutic approaches ranging from cognitive-behavioral to interpersonal and psychodynamic. This presentation explicates the concept of mentalizing and its overlap with related terms, links the development of mentalizing to attachment relationships, describes the mentalizing approach to psychotherapy, and presents our psychoeducational programs designed to engage patients in a mentalizing approach to inpatient treatment.