What is Mentalization? (MBT)

My placement is based upon the Mentalization Based Treatment model; this is a NICE recommended, evidence-based treatment for personality disorders (although it is less well-known than DBT). I’ve had a day where I’ve needed some help distracting myself and keeping busy, so one of the MBT Practitioners here asked me to have a go at summarising Mentalization and the model we work with in to something that can be transformed in to a booklet for staff members (e.g. HCAs and nurses who haven’t had specific training in MBT) and new patients.

This is my first draft and I thought it might be useful to share it more widely for anyone curious about MBT as I know I struggled to find easily-accessible material when this placement was suggested to me.

Help with Emotions

Emotions are tricky little buggers. They really are.

And for some of us they feel down right impossible to cope with, understand, recognise and even simply to have. I struggle in many ways with emotions…others’ but mainly my own. I also give myself a hard time about that fact and expect myself to ‘do better’ or ‘feel the right thing’. Knowing this, and knowing that I’m facing a particularly turbulent time*, last week the crisis team manager had me do an exercise where I stood in the middle of a room surrounded by different sized pieces of paper and alotted emotions to those pieces of paper according to how much I was feeling them at the time. We then went through several different scenarios and changed the emotions around accordingly. This was to show me that even if I was being hard on myself and expecting to feel the ‘right’ emotions (e.g. happy or relieved that the placement is definite rather than scared or anxious) or feeling that I would feel one emotion forever, in fact recent history shows that emotions fluctuate massively in their presence or size and that I can feel many things at once without invalidating anything else that’s going on.

I found the exercise incredibly helpful (although it felt quite painful at the time) and today decided to recreate it in a portable and reusable form. I already have benefited from this – working out what is actually going on inside me rather than just a broad ‘overwhelmed’- and thought it’s a concept worth sharing in case anyone else wants to give something similar a go in any of its forms.

So here is a concept borne of the crisis team manager’s work with me:

This is in my visual journal but could be on a standalone piece of card or inside a diary or something similar, with very basic boxes drawn on the page, and colour-coded emotions cut out in card and blue-tacked to the appropriate box at that moment in time.

Let me know if you’ve used something similar or gave this a go!

*in the latter stages of preparing for a long-term specialist hospital placement, hours away from home/family/care team, in a locked and mainly unknown environment, after my last placement collapsed for financial reasons with just 28 days notice and after not fulfilling their promises/purpose

A Day in the Life (Visual Journal) – Mental Health Awareness Week

“Molly isn’t here right now”

My current situation was summed up very succinctly and accurately by my clinical psychologist today: “Molly isn’t really here right now, is she? Or maybe she’s just weighed down so deep inside that neither of us can reach her?” I hate it. It’s scary not really being here. But I know it’s for a reason.… Continue reading “Molly isn’t here right now”

“Please, tell me more about my own Goddamn experiences”

Well this really struck a chord; unfortunately I think it will with anyone suffering from mental illnesses, and especially those with the more stigmatized ones such as personality disorders. I genuinely couldn’t even begin to count the amount of times that mental health professionals, with confidence and certainty, tell me rather than ask me (AKA… Continue reading “Please, tell me more about my own Goddamn experiences”

Re-training a Wonky Brain

An enormous barrier to recovery for me is a complete lack of self-compassion, self-kindness and self-esteem. This week I decided it was time to try to tackle this head-on and so am working my way through ‘The Compassionate Mind Workbook’ by Chris Irons and Elaine Beaumont. As well as working through the first 3 chapters,… Continue reading Re-training a Wonky Brain

Forget All That You’re Not

These beautiful words were shared with me today and I just wanted to pass this important message on…

…I hope you can take them to heart and try to remember all that you ARE rather than what you’re not.

Compassionate Other: The Muggle’s Patronus (Or How to Create Your Own Source of Compassion)

A brilliant nurse in my crisis team has recently been on a Compassion-Focussed Therapy training course and met with me the other day brimming with ideas. 

Self-compassion is something that feels entirely intangible and unachievable for me, so we’ve got our work cut out, but thankfully she’s willing to give it all a go with me regardless! I’ll share some of the different exercises as I embark upon them… first up is creating a ‘Compassionate other’. 

The notes I took from our session explain this as: Try to come up with a ‘compassionate other’ based upon the following…

  • this other will have the three core elements of compassion-focussed therapy: courage, wisdom and dedication
  • humans are fallible, so don’t use a real person, although you can think about which characteristics of real people you find comforting/safe/helpful and incorporate those 
  • could be a person, an animal or a mythical creature  [I like the thought of a protective mythical creature, like a dragon or a unicorn, personally]
  • use this compassionate other to counteract negative self talk

As drawing things helps me, we decided that maybe the best place to start was drawing this potential compassionate other to give me a visual prompt. Humans don’t feel at all safe to me, so I knew straight away mine wouldn’t be in the form of a human, and very quickly my mind jumped to mythical creatures and, more specifically, dragons. I thought of this dragon as being both gentle and strong, comforting and protective, and something that I could carry with me wherever I go…thus, the ‘Palm Dragon’ was born!

I think he’s rather sweet, but you can tell in his eyes that he can stick up for himself and for what he believes in, too. Now I just need to narrow down and foster his compassionate traits, and see if I can somehow implement him into coping mechanisms to counteract the never-ending, overwhelming negative self-talk and intense self-hatred.

I’m hoping this concept can also be fostered into something protective or safe-feeling that can be carried with me for other uses: my idea of a Muggle’s Patronus (for anyone who isn’t a Harry Potter fan, a Patronus is a “guardian or protector, which takes the form of an animal…one of the most powerful defensive charms…a pure, protective magical concentration of happiness and hope”.

I’ll fill you in when I get further along creating and cultivating my compassionate Palm Dragon. I’d love to hear of any of you have already or will now try to create one for yourselves, too!