I have recently been increasing my use of mentalization-based therapy (MBT) in my practice.

The aims of all MBT are to improve a person’s ability to mentalize, especially in close relationships. Having improved mentalizing ability means:

  • Experiencing a more stable sense of who you feel you are
  • Being less likely to let emotions get the better of you
  • When emotions do get the better of you, you are able to regain your composure more quickly

For adolescents, which in terms of brain development is roughly ages 10-25, mentalizing is a key skill in the process of being learned. With the ability to mentalize your adolescent becomes stronger emotionally, engages in harmful behaviors less, is less likely to get into interpersonal conflicts, and is better able to deal with any conflicts that do arise.

One tool that I learned about for adolescents is a smart phone app developed specifically to help in moments when mentalizing becomes so difficult that the adolescent is completely overwhelmed. These are the moments when some kids are vulnerable to self harm or other harmful ways of acting out. In those moments, the Coping Skills app gives alternatives for self regulation. (Note: I have no financial or personal relationship with the creator of this app.)

From an MBT perspective, when overwhelmed by emotion, a person’s ability to think about minds (one’s own or others’) simply collapses. The goal of MBT and of the app is to help people reconnect with that ability, with the understanding that this can help them manage the feelings of the moment better. If you’d like to learn more about MBT, you can read the Wikipedia page, watch Peter Fonagy (one of the creators of MBT), or contact me for more information.