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Restoring Mentalizing in Attachment Relationships

Treating Trauma With Plain Old Therapy

Jon G. Allen, Ph.D.
Foreword by Peter Fonagy, Ph.D., F.B.A.

  • ISBN 978-1-58562-418-8
  • Item #62418
This book was Highly Commended in the Psychiatry Category of the 2013 BMA Medical Book Awards.


In Restoring Mentalizing in Attachment Relationships: Treating Trauma With Plain Old Therapy, Jon G. Allen, Ph.D., argues that the incorporation of mentalizing into attachment theory and research provides a solid foundation for trauma treatment, and offers therapists and patients a pathway to recovery. In plain language accessible to clinicians and laypeople alike, Allen describes trauma in attachment relationships, reviews the literature, and makes a compelling, evidence-based argument for the efficacy of psychotherapy. Specifically, the book:

  • Presents a comprehensive view of attachment trauma across diverse diagnostic conditions, directly linking these to the psychotherapeutic interventions that work best.
  • Allows therapists from different theoretical frameworks, by using these best practices, to treat patients with a wide range of problems and disorders.
  • Situates mindfulness and mentalizing as central to secure attachment, focusing clinicians’ attention on these most critical dimensions of healing relationships.
  • Provides a thorough review of the research on attachment, mindfulness, and mentalizing, and evaluates the effectiveness of the most popular trauma treatments, thereby equipping clinicians to treat patients across the spectrum of trauma-related psychiatric disorders.
  • Employs a down-to-earth, conversational writing style that makes the book accessible to patients and family members as well as to professionals.

Trauma can be the result of blatant events, such as violence, abuse, and neglect, or the subtle yet pervasive failure to connect. Both contribute to developmental psychopathology and cause lasting emotional pain. “Plain old therapy,” according to Allen, is a valuable and proven resource for addressing trauma and treating patients with complex psychiatric disorders. This fascinating and eminently useful book should help to restore psychotherapy to its well-deserved stature.


    About the Author
    PART I: Attachment Trauma and Psychiatric Disorders
    Chapter 1. Attachment, Mentalizing, and Trauma
    Chapter 2. Posttraumatic Stress and Dissociative Disorders
    Chapter 3. Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders
    PART II: Treatment and Healing
    Chapter 4. Evidence-Based Treatments
    Chapter 5. Plain Old Therapy
    Chapter 6. Existential-Spiritual Perspectives

About the Authors

Jon G. Allen, Ph.D., is a Senior Staff Psychologist and holds the Helen Malsin Palley Chair in Mental Health Research at The Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas. He is Professor of Psychiatry in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Dr. Allen has authored and coauthored numerous professional articles and book chapters on trauma-related problems, psychotherapy, the therapeutic alliance, hospital treatment, and psychological assessment.

Dr. Allen provides an extremely engaging and useful call for therapists to reflect carefully before they underestimate the value of “plain old therapy” when working the clients who have experienced relational psychological trauma. But what he describes is much more than just plain old therapy, it is a complex (but eminently practical) distillation of the core principles and practices that make all the newer “evidence-based” therapies effective—above all a vital (and in Dr. Allen’s words, “humbling”) reminder to therapists to first mentalize, then empathize, and only then (if at all) rely on therapeutic techniques.—Julian D. Ford, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry University of Connecticut Health Center

Jon Allen manages to be both maestro and man of the people. His prose is accessible, fresh, and vivid. He is simple without being simplistic, renders complexity comprehensible, has the common touch but is never commonplace. One is constantly thinking “that’s so obvious, why hadn’t I thought of that before”. He is not afraid to tackle the big therapy questions—trauma, ethics, mindfulness, spirituality, what really makes a difference to patients? It’s all done with humour, humility and wisdom, but above all the responsive interpersonal sensitivity, aka mentalizing, that is the essence of the book’s message. Long-toothed or tyro, buy it, read it—and notice how much better your patients are for it.—Professor Jeremy Holmes, M.D., University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Jon Allen has done it again. He’s written another book that presents information that is both sophisticated and accessible to the reader (lay person and professional alike). This book presents an explanation of complex posttraumatic symptoms and conditions that make them understandable while it offers hope for their resolution. Dr. Allen’s commonsense approach is de-mystifies what can be daunting symptoms and a challenging treatment process. It offers direction and reassurance and stresses the therapeutic relationship as a basis for the teaching and modeling of emotion-regulation skills and mentalization.—Christine A. Courtois, Ph.D., ABPP, Psychologist, Private Practice, Courtois & Associates, PC, Washington, DC

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