THERAPEUTIC COMMUNICATION: THE ROLE OF EPISTEMIC TRUST AND MENTALIZING
Prof. Martin DEBBANÉ
In this presentation, we will discuss key processes and factors involved in therapeutic communication. Building on research from developmental psychology and resilience studies, we first introduce some of the most salient psychological factors contributing and sustaining mental health. Then drawing on research in different therapeutic settings, we outline what appears to constitute the fundamental processes involved in therapeutic communication. Initial contact between the help-seeker and the caregiving resource is determined at the individual, interpersonal and contextual levels. The experience of being listened to and the possibility to perceive the caregiving intention is critical to the initial contact. We further develop the concept of mentalizing as a cornerstone in the listening process. The experience of being sensitively mentalized is thought to strongly contribute to fostering trust, not only between the communicative dyad, but specifically fosters trust on the value of the information communicated by the caregiving resource. Epistemic trust represents the attribution of trust in a source of knowledge, wherein information can be considered relevant to the self, pertinent to one’s understand of the context, and generalisable to real-life settings. When therapeutic communication can not only sustain the feeling of being listened to, also actively understood, the rekindling of epistemic trust critically contributes to the generalisability of the therapeutic effect beyond the communicative exchange. We will seek to frame this overall process in a social evolutionary approach to therapeutic communication leading to learning from experience.
Martin Debbané is Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Geneva (Switzerland), and Professor of Psychopathology at the Research Department of Clinical, Educational, and Health Psychology, University College London (UK). His research focuses on the development of psychopathology and resilience in youths and young adults, integrating clinical, experimental and developmental psychology methods together with neuroscientific research. He is trainer, supervisor and practitioner of mentalization-based therapy, with a specialization in early psychosis, personality disorders and ADHD.