Mentalizing Therapeutic Landscapes: The Benefit for Mental Health

By Emma Rose.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The concept of mentalizing is applied to a viewer’s experience of the therapeutic landscape to provide better understanding of the ways in which mentalizing the landscape enhances mental wellbeing. Central to the paper is the significance of the viewer’s prior acquaintance with images of the therapeutic landscape preceding a direct encounter. Representations in the form of photographs, film, advertising, websites etc. enhance the comprehensibility of the place and prompt the viewer’s attachment in ways that generate psychotherapeutic advantage. The paper is organised into three sections: Section one explains the idea of mentalizing from its base in psychoanalytic theory and covers examines the development of emotional self-awareness from the interaction between the infant and caregiver (Winnicott 1967). The theory of emotional mirroring, using the social bio-feedback mechanism (Gergely, Watson 1996) is explored in this context to demonstrate how particular representations of manageable affective states are acquired. Section two advances the theme through more detailed exploration of therapeutic landscapes as a secure base (Bowlby 1988). Section three draws together attachment theory and mentalizing with ways in which individuals can achieve better understanding of themselves and others. Improved understanding of the self and self-regulation and empathy with others establishes the possibility that such landscapes can advance shared interests between people or groups.

Keywords: Therapeutic, Landscapes, Visual Image, Psychotherapy, Wellbeing, Mental Health, Emotional Mirroring, Affective Experience, Mentalization, Secure Base

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.87-94. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 766.556KB).

Prof. Emma Rose

Professor, Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Arts, Lancaster University, Lancaster, Lancashire, UK

Professor Emma Rose is a researcher in contemporary art and visual culture. Her focus as an artist and a scholar is concerned with landscape and ways in which it can be representated for the benefit of individuals and society. In particular she explores the role of landscape in relation to mental health and wellbeing, and the possibility that landscapes can advance shared interests between people or groups.