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Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) – Information for service users

Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) focuses on developing a person’s ability to recognise what is going on in their own mind and what might be going on in other peoples’ minds. This leaflet outlines who may benefit from MBT, what the therapy involves and what to expect from MBT.

This leaflet may not be reproduced in whole or in part, without the permission of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

  • What is Mentalisation?

    Mentalisation Based Therapy (MBT) focuses on developing a person’s ability to recognise what is going on in their own mind and what might be going on in other peoples’ minds. We call this ‘Mentalising’.

    Mentalising is sometimes described as “thinking and feeling about thinking and feeling” and/or “understanding ourselves from the outside and others from the inside”.

    It can play an important role in enabling us to regulate our emotions and impulses, and in developing fulfilling, meaningful relationships.

  • Will I benefit from MBT?

    People may benefit from MBT if they:
    • Want to better understand their own mind and behaviour
    • Want to better understand the minds and behaviours of others.
    • Want to be able to develop and maintain healthy relationships.
    • Want to find new ways of understanding and coping with their emotions.

    In addition you may:
    • Have a probable diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and possibly other mental health difficulties.
    • MBT can be of specific benefit to people who self-harmed and/or have suicidal thoughts. Primarily the aim of therapy is to enable you to engage in more helpful behaviours instead of suicidal and self-harming behaviours and develop a life worth living. Participating in any therapy may, understandably, also cause some discomfort or anxiety, especially at the beginning, as it involves talking and thinking about things you may find difficult. You and your therapist can discuss the best ways to support you with this.

  • What does therapy involve?

    1. Mentalisation Based Therapy: Introduction (MBTi) – An 8-10 week group focused on developing participants understanding of mentalising, related difficulties and mentalisation based therapies. The MBT-i group can also help assess whether the full MBT programme is suitable for you.

    2. Individual Review - Each person who attends MBT-i is offered an individual appointment to consider if MBT is the most appropriate therapy. If both service user and therapist are in agreement, MBT will be offered.

    3. Mentalisation Based Therapy - This involves attending weekly group and individual therapy for up to 18 months. Within MBT there is an assumption that mentalising is a learned skill, which can be developed through therapy. Individuals are required to bring their own mentalising difficulties and experiences to group and individual sessions.

    4. Follow up – to support ongoing mentalising and recovery

  • What can I expect from MBT?

    Your therapist(s) will initially spend time with you getting to know the kind of situations which have tended to provoke strong emotional reactions in you, or which have led to shifts in your mood.

    They will also work with you to develop a shared understanding (formulation) of your key difficulties. This will include looking at how these difficulties affect and are affected by your relationships. This formulation is designed to help you focus your therapy but is meant to be flexible and can be reworked throughout your therapy.

    You will be asked to share some of the mentalising difficulties identified in your formulation within the group. This helps group members understand one another better, and support the mentalising skills members are trying to develop

    MBT therapists provide little direct advice; instead they encourage you to take a mentalising stance. This means helping you to work out your own solutions which will take time and practice.

    As part of MBT you are encouraged to discuss how you experience your therapist(s) and/or other people you are in therapy with and yourself in relation to them, as this can also help you in developing your mentalising skills.

  • Is there anything else I need to know about MBT?

    It may be helpful for you to consider the following:
    • Will you be able to get to the venue and attend regularly? We ask people to aim for at least 75% attendance of appointments.
    • If you are already in therapy, it’s likely you will be advised to finish that therapy before embarking on MBT.
    • If you use drugs or alcohol, it may make therapy less effective. If you significantly misuse substances, you would likely need to address this first so that you can get the most from MBT or other interventions offered to you.

    If you are interested in receiving MBT please discuss this with your care coordinator and/or psychological therapist within the Community Mental Health Team.

  • References

    • Bateman, A. & Fonagy, P. (2006) Mentalization-Based Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder: A Practical Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press
    • Karterud, S. (2015) Mentalization-Based Group Therapy (MBT-G): A theoretical, clinical and research manual. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • For information about the current evidence for MBT see: National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) Guidelines for Borderline Personality Disorder:

  • Interpreters

    Staff can arrange an interpreter if you need one.

  • What if I have a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint about the service?

    If you want to make a comment, suggestion, compliment or complaint you can:
    • talk to the people directly involved in your care
    • ask a member of staff for a feedback form, or complete a form on the Trust website (click on the ‘Contact Us’ tab)
    • telephone the Complaints Department 0191 245 6672
    • email Please note that information sent to the Trust via email is sent at your own risk
    • We are always looking at ways to improve services. Your feedback allows us to monitor the quality of our services and act upon issues that you bring to our attention.
    You can provide feedback in the following ways:
    - the quickest way for you to do this is to complete our short online survey at
    - complete a Points of You survey, available from staff.

  • Information about content, other formats and version control

    Further information about the content, reference sources or production of this leaflet can be obtained from the Patient Information Centre. If you would like to tell us what you think about this leaflet please get in touch.

    This information can be made available in a range of formats on request (eg Braille, audio, larger print, easy read, BSL or other languages). Please contact the Patient Information Centre Tel: 0191 246 7288

    Published by the Patient Information Centre
    2020 Copyright, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
    Ref, PIC/769/0419 April 2019 V2 Tel: 0191 246 7288
    Review date 2022