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Mentalization and Dialectical Behavior Therapy

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) are two approaches to the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD). While DBT has the most empirical support, MBT has a small but significant evidence base. Dialectical behavior therapy synthesizes behaviorism, mindfulness, and dialectics, while MBT is conceptually anchored in psychoanalysis, attachment theory, cognitive neuroscience, and developmental psychopathology. While coming from strikingly different orientations, DBT and MBT therapists share more interventions and stances than one might suppose. The central purported active ingredient of MBT is the capacity to mentalize, which is crucial for the formation of secure attachment, and this ability is thought to be weak and unstable in individuals with borderline personality disorder. This article explores the question of whether or not mentalizing is already present in DBT practice, whether it would be compatible with DBT conceptually and practically, and whether a focus on mentalizing would be of use to the DBT therapists and their patients.
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Keywords: BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER; DBT; DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY; MBT; MENTALIZATION; MENTALIZATION-BASED THERAPY

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Worcester, MA, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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  • The American Journal of Psychotherapy will no longer be available via Ingenta Connect from May 15, 2017. Please contact the publisher at [email protected] for information on how to continue access to this title.
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