Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Mentalization in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Dawn M. WirickEmail author
  • Lee A. Teufel-Prida
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_1073

Name of Concept





Mentalization refers to making sense of oneself and others by getting in touch with one’s intentional mental states such as desires, feelings, and beliefs. It requires one to comprehend that “what is in the mind is in the mind,” and that one’s own mental states differ from others’ mental states (Bateman and Fonagy 2006, p. 185). The act of mentalizing includes imaginative mental activity that requires one to perceive and interpret human behavior in terms of intentional mental states (e.g., needs, goals, reasons, and desires) (Fonagy et al. 2007). This mental activity includes both understanding and interpreting one’s behavior in terms of mental states, as well as understanding and interpreting others’ behavior in terms of mental states. Furthermore, differentiation between one’s and others’ mental states, as well as the ability to differentiate mental states from external reality, are pillars of mentalization. The...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Molly F. Gasbarrini
    • 1
  1. 1.California School of Professional PsychologyAlliant International UniversityLos AngelesUSA