“I want to trip inside your head
Spend the day there
To hear the things you haven’t said
And see what you might see…
…I want to see your thoughts take shape and walk right out.”
(Bono, U2, Miracle Drug)
I attended a wonderfully enlightening seminar yesterday at OHSU in Portland on something called Mentalizing and Adolescence. It was presented by Trudie Rossouw from the UK. I left the experience feeling excited at the potential of what she presented and with new insights about self harm and the severe emotional struggles that are overwhelming so many of our teens and young adults. Mentalizing is a form of imaginative mental activity about others or oneself, namely perceiving and interpreting human behaviour in terms of intentional mental states. In other words, what we think about our own thoughts and those of others as related to our needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes, and reasons.
Some of the presentation slides read:
Mentalization renders behavior intelligible.
It is the basis for self awareness and sensitivity to others.
It is seeing oneself from the outside and seeing other from the inside.
Trudie went on to say, “if we can help youngsters mentalize, we can help them develop protective factors.” We know that perceived burdensomeness often accompanies suicidal ideation. When our youth struggle with severe emotional experiences and they know their families are trying to help them and we are all failing to access effective help to reduce their emotional suffering, our youth often perceive themselves as a burden. This concept of mentalization provides a very hopeful perspective. As we get more skilled at accurately perceiving the minds of others, we can experience lower internal stress that leads to our perception of being a burden to others and the suicidal ideation that often follows.
In a room that had 480 seats, there were only about 70-80 people in the audience. I think I was the only peer services provider in the room. I couldn’t help but wish that the room was filled with the mental health care workers who evaluate, treat, support and/or refer youth in our community. It seems to me that MBT (mentalization-based therapy) may be the 3rd leg on a three-legged stool, with the other two being CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy).
If you are interested in doing your own research on this topic, visit the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. Stay tuned for more to come here on my blog – I think you’ll see more of these concepts incorporated into our parent and family group seminars 😉