Brown Bag Talks 2: Mentalization-focused Interventions for At-risk Parent-child Dyads

Thursday, May 5, 2016
Özlem Bekar, PhD

Time: 16:15


Place: Psychology Building Seminar Room


Mentalization-focused Interventions for At-risk Parent-child Dyads: Clinical Applications and Research Findings from an Onsite Integrated Mental Health Program

Özlem Bekar, PhD
Özyeğin University
Visiting Assistant Professor


     Risk factors during preschool years, such as poverty and unattended social/emotional problems, are known to have severe negative influences on subsequent physical and mental health. Mentalization-focused interventions (Allen & Fonagy, 2006) are typically utilized to improve the attachment relationship in at-risk parent-child dyads with cumulative risk factors (Lieberman & Vanhorn, 2004). This talk will cover findings from research on the Relationships for Growth and Learning Program (RfGL); an on-site, fully integrated mental health intervention program operating within childcare and Head Start centers with the goal of reducing risk factors and promoting resiliency among the underserved. At the core of the RfGL lies Peer Play Psychotherapy. After covering the basic premises of this program, Özlem Bekar will largely focus on the "mentalization" piece of this research project. Mentalization construct refers to the ability of being aware, attending to and understanding mental states of one’s self and others, as well as making accurate connections between those mental states and observable actions (Allen, 2006). Mentalization capacity plays a crucial role in normative development of relational schemas as well as psychopathological outcomes in children and adults (Steele & Steele, 2008a). Furthermore, mentalization-based interventions are widely used in diverse forms of psychotherapy. In order to capture mentalization skills of parents and children, a coding system was developed (The Coding System for Mental State Talk in Narratives, CS-MST; Bekar, Steele & Steele, 2014). Approximately half of the children in the sample were receiving on-site Peer Play Psychotherapy (Shahmoon-Shanok, Bekar, Fried, Steele, 2012). The results will be explained and discussed in the light of current developmental and object-relational theories. Use of mentalization in parenting, psychotherapy and schools will be reviewed.