Minding Mentalizing

Mentalizing - Assessment and relation to treatment

Background and aims

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder characterized by strong emotional fluctuations, high symptom pressure, self-destructive behaviors, identity problems, and unstable relationships with other people. The concept of mentalization includes the understanding of one's own and other people's actions as expressions of mental states (thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams). Poor or unstable capacity for mentalization is believed to contribute strongly to emotional and relational difficulties. Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is a recognized and evidence-based therapy for patients with BPD. It aims to develop patients’ capacity for mentalizing.

The first aim of the current project is to investigate how mentalizing can be assessed feasibly, reliably, and validly in clinical samples. After completed data collection, the main project aims to investigate how patients' mentalizing ability relates to clinical outcomes in MBT, how mentalizing ability develops through treatment, and how interactions between patient and therapist contribute to treatment processes and development.


The project is a prospective naturalistic study of outpatients with borderline personality disorder treated in a three-year MBT program. Before treatment, patients undergo a thorough evaluation that includes mapping of symptoms, relational difficulties and personality functioning, as well as special interviews for assessment of mentalizing ability. They are then followed up with systematic evaluations every 6 months during treatment, including video recordings of therapy sessions. The project includes a follow-up examination approximately three months after the end of treatment, with re-evaluation of symptoms and repetition of special interviews to assess mentalizing ability. Some participants will also be invited to a qualitative interview about the experiences with the treatment. The project has been approved by the Regional Committee for Research Ethics.

Expected time schedule

Competed patient inclusion scheduled in 2022
Data collection completed in 2025


The project is from 2022 basis for a PhD project focusing on the development and evaluation of methods for assessment of mentalizing.


The project is a collaboration between the outpatient unit, Section for Personality Psychiatry and Specialized Treatments, Oslo University Hospital, the Department for Research and Innovation, Oslo University Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo


Principle Investigator: Theresa Wilberg

Clinical site: Outpatient unit: Personlighetspoliklinikken, Section for Personality Psychiatry and Specialized Treatments, Oslo University Hospital, Unit leader: Jane Fjermestad-Noll.

Research group: Personality Psychiatry

Published Feb. 2, 2022 7:27 PM - Last modified Feb. 2, 2022 7:34 PM