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Peter Fonagy, born in 1952, at Budapest, Hungary, is a prominent contemporary psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist. He studied clinical psychology at University College London. He is Professor of Psychoanalysis and head of the department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College London, amongst other things, a training and supervising analyst in the British Psycho-Analytical Society in child and adult analysis, a Fellow of the British Academy, and a registrant of the BPC. His clinical interests centre on issues of borderline psychopathology, violence and early attachment relationships. His work attempts to integrate empirical research with psychoanalytic theory. He has published over 400 articles and chapters and has authored or edited 20 books[1].

Contemporary psychoanalysis

Fonagy contributed much to the development of contemporary psychoanalysis. To this regard he helped to improve the dialogue between analysts and cognitive therapists. Fonagy has played and still plays a major role in the evaluation of psychotherapy research[2]. The evaluation of his research is (mostly) based on the effectiveness of treatment. Evaluation of treatment has led to review, recommendations and implications of psychotherapy. Fonagy has offered detailed evidence for the efficacy of psychological interventions of mental disorders and for special populations, including treatment of borderline personality disorder.


In the book Affect regulation, mentalization and the development of the self, Fonagy and his colleagues put forth a detailed theory for the way in which the abilities to mentalize and to regulate affect can determine an individual’s successful development. They define mentalization as the ability to make and use mental representations of the own and other people’s emotional states. The authors discuss the ways in which bad and insufficient parenting, leading to certain attachment styles, can leave children unable to modulate and interpret their own feelings, as well as the feelings of others[3]. These inabilities to mentalize and regulate affect have implications for severe personality disorders, as well as general psychological problems of self-confidence, and sense of self[4].

Mentalization Based treatment

Main article: Mentalization-based psychotherapy

Fonagy is particularly interested in borderline personality disorder, which was for a long time assumed to be treatment resistant[5]. He and A. Bateman proposed in their book Psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder: mentalization based treatment, a new way to treat BPD[6]. Mentalization based treatment (MBT), rooted in attachment theory, is based on the idea that people with Borderline personality disorder mainly lack the ability to mentalize, which is caused by an absence of contingent and marked mirroring during development. The primary goals of treatment are to improve mentalization skills, making connections between the inner experience of relationships and the actual representation, learning how to work with current emotions and how to establish real relationships. In this way they could form a more coherent sense of self and develop new (secure) attachment styles[7].

Most recent books

Attachment Theory and Psychoanalysis (published 2001 by Other Press),

What Works For Whom? A Critical Review of Treatments for Children and Adolescents (with M. Target, D. Cottrell, J. Phillips & Z. Kurtz - published 2002 by Guilford),

Affect Regulation, Mentalization, and the Development of the Self (with G. Gergely, E. Jurist and M. Target - published 2002 by Other Press),

Psychoanalytic Theories: Perspectives from Developmental Psychopathology (with M. Target - published 2003 by Whurr Publications),

Psychotherapy for Borderline Personality Disorder: Mentalization Based Treatment (with A. Bateman - ,published 2004 by Oxford University Press)

What Works For Whom? A Critical Review of Psychotherapy Research (fully revised and updated 2nd edition with A. Roth - published 2004 by Guilford).


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1.Webpage P. Fonagy:

2. Fonagy, P. (1996). Attachment, the development of the self, and its pathology in personality disorders. Psychomedia, 26 – 32.

3. Fonagy, P., Roth, A. & Higgitt, A. (2005). Psychodynamic psychotherapies: Evidence–based practice and clinical wisdom. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 69,1, 1-58.

4. Fonagy, P., Gergely, G., Jurist, E.L., Target, M. (2002). Affect regulation, mentalization and the development of the self. New York; Other Press.

5. Fonagy, P & Target, M. (2006). The mentalization-based approach to self pathology. Journal of personality disorders, 20, 544 – 576.

6. Bateman, A, & Fonagy, P. (2003). The development of an attachment based treatment program for borderline personality disorder. Bulletin of the Menniger Clinic, 76, 187-211.

7. Bateman, A. & Fonagy, P. (2004). Psychotherapy for Borderline Personality Disorder: mentalization-based treatment. New York; Oxford University Press.

8. Bateman, A. & Fonagy, P. (2004). Mentalization based treatment of borderline personality disorder. Journal of personality disorders, 18, 36-51.

9. Fonagy, P. & Bateman, A. (2006). Mechanism of change in mentalization based treatment of borderline personality disorder. Journal of clinical Psychology, 62, 411-430.

External links

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