Abuse/neglect, Education/teachers, Foster care, High Risk Adolescents, Residential Care

Can Mentilisation Based Therapy skills assist OoHC & YJ Practitioners create more therapeutic relationships with clients?

Day  2: International Child Trauma Conference 2018

Yesterday I attended Peter Fongy’s masterclass on Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT)

Who is Peter Fonagy?


Peter is a psychologist with special interests in the neurobiology of attachment, working with violent young men and people with personality disorders. He has authored over 300 peer reviewed articles. You can read a short version of Peter’s impressive CV here.

As a psychologist working with children and adolescents, I regularly consult his book What Works for Whom?: A Critical Review of Treatments for Children and Adolescents. 

Peter fonagy book

What is mentalisation ?

Mentalisation is the ability to reflect upon and understand one’s own thoughts and feelings and those of others. For example, a parent with a personality disorder may misinterpret a child who is expressing a need or a want as being angry ie they cannot correctly understand their child’s mental state. In the long term this may harm the child because their basic emotional needs are not met.

What type of clients benefit from MBT?

MBT is a therapeutic intervention used, in the main, with people with personality disorders eg narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder etc.

Does MBT have any relevance to Practitioners working  OoHC or youth justice? 

this therapy unless have been trained in MBT by an accredited organisation.

However, many MBT skills are relevant to foster carers, residential care workers, YJ workers, case managers etc. They provide Practitioners with the opportunity to greatly enhance therapeutic interactions with clients and, importantly, are unlikely to cause harm if used incorrectly. The skills are listed below. Detailed description of the skills can be found here.

MBT SkillIs the skill relevant to the work of OoHC & YJ Practitioners?
Engagement, interest, warmth and authenticityYes
Exploration, curiosity and a not knowing stanceYes
Challenging unwarranted beliefsPossibly
Adaptation to mentalizing capacityNo
Regulation of arousalYes
timulating mentalization through the processNo
Acknowledging positive mentalizingYes
Pretend modeNo
Psychic equivalenceNo
Affect focusYes
Affect and interpersonal eventsYes
Stop and rewindYes
Validation of emotional reactionsYes
Transference and the relation to the therapistPossibly
Use of countertransferenceNo
Monitoring own understanding and correcting misunderstandingYes
Integrating experiences from concurrent group therapyNo

About graemembaird

I am a psychologist with a special interest in improving the outcomes of families, children and young people in the Out of Home Care and Juvenile Justice systems.
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