Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Judith Jordan, PhD

Second Advisor

Christopher M. Ciarleglio, PhD






Laura J. Acsadi, LCSW-C

Dissertation Chair: Judith Jordan, PhD

This two paper dissertation seeks to explain the theoretical basis for Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT) and its applied treatment with children who have been diagnosed with attentional disorders that include attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children who have been diagnosed with attentional disorders frequently present for mental health treatment with emotional regulation and behavioral concerns. The standard treatment for children diagnosed with attentional disorders are cognitive and/or behavioral treatment modalities. These treatment modalities focus on changing the behaviors of the child and are not oriented to include the parents as a focus in the treatment. Mentalization Based Treatment for Children (MBT-C) is an emerging treatment for children with emotional or behavioral symptomatology. MBT-C is a psychodynamic treatment modality that is informed by attachment theory and focuses on treating the child, the parents, and the relational interactions within the family system.

The first article explores the theoretical underpinnings of MBT by presenting research on early childhood psychological development that includes attachment theory, natural pedagogy theory, and the use of ostensive cues by the caregiver as a specific communication signal to the child. This is followed by research into the development and role of mentalization, the psychological process that allows the child to regulate feelings, understand others, and respond to stimuli in the social environment. Lastly, this article connects the function of the attachment system in developing the capacity within the child to mentalize the self, relationships with others, and how this impacts the child’s developing attentional and emotional regulation systems.

The second article provides composite case examples of children who have been diagnosed with attentional disorders and have presented for treatment related to dysfunction with behavioral and emotional regulation. The article outlines the MBT-C treatment model for the composite case and includes assessment as well as interventions with the child, parents, and family system. The article follows the composite case of “Patrick” through the MBT-C treatment process and explains each step from assessment to conclusion of treatment.

Included in

Social Work Commons