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Warshaw, S.C. (2015). Wondering and Imagining: Mentalization in Clinical Work With Children and Adolescents. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 14(3):211-215.

(2015). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 14(3):211-215

Editor’s Introduction to the Special Issue

Wondering and Imagining: Mentalization in Clinical Work With Children and Adolescents

Susan C. Warshaw, EdD, ABPP

Mentalization”, a quintessentially human psychological process, central to understanding and interpreting the behaviors and actions of our selves and others, has over the past several decades become the focus of considerable interest within contemporary psychoanalysis (Fonagy & Target, 1998). Often used interchangeably with the operationally defined research construct “reflective function” RF (Steele, Murphy, & Steele, 2015), appropriately developed Mentalization is understood by analysts of many clinical traditions to be a hall mark of emotional health and associated with interpersonal/attachment security (Allen, Fonagy, & Bateman, 2008). So basic to our functioning, the “interpersonal interpretive function” of humans has been endorsed as a process critical to social/emotional survival (Fonagy, 2002).

Reflective Function (Fonagy, Steele, Steele, Moran, & Higgit, 1991; Steele et al., 2015) as a research construct, has, over the past two decades provided us with an abundance of data which has added considerably to our knowledge base, increasing our awareness of factors influencing and correlated with the development of these capacities. In turn, the robust findings of much of that research has further informed our awareness of the importance of this focus for practicing clinicians.

Despite the growing literature in this area, many practicing clinicians continue to grapple with the integration of these ideas into their clinical work. Some wonder what these terms actually refer to. Others ask whether working with a “Mentalization” sensibility offers anything new to those who have provided traditional psychodynamic child, adolescent and parent psychotherapy for decades.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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