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Keywords:

  • mentalization;
  • mentalization-based treatment;
  • antisocial personality disorder;
  • borderline personality disorder;
  • self;
  • violence

Abstract

Mentalization is the process by which we implicitly and explicitly interpret the actions of ourselves and others as meaningful based on intentional mental states (e.g., desires, needs, feelings, beliefs, and reasons). This process is disrupted in individuals with comorbid antisocial (ASPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD), who tend to misinterpret others' motives. Antisocial characteristics stabilize mentalizing by rigidifying relationships within prementalistic ways of functioning. However, loss of flexibility makes the person vulnerable to sudden collapse when the schematic representation is challenged. This exposes feelings of humiliation, which can only be avoided by violence and control of the other person. The common path to violence is via a momentary inhibition of the capacity for mentalization. In this article, the authors outline their current understanding of mentalizing and its relation to antisocial characteristics and violence. This is illustrated by a clinical account of mentalization-based treatment adapted for antisocial personality disorder. Treatment combines group and individual therapy. The focus is on helping patients maintain mentalizing about their own mental states when their personal integrity is challenged. A patient with ASPD does not have mental pain associated with another's state of mind; thus, to generate conflict in ASPD by thinking about the victim will typically be ineffective in inducing behavior change. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol: In Session 64: 1–14, 2008.