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Melitta Fischer-Kern
Ao.Univ.-Prof.Dr. Melitta Fischer-Kern

Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy
Position: Associate Professor

T +43 1 40400 30690


Attachment representation; Mentalization; Personality structure; Psychoanalysis; Psychoanalytic process and outcome research; Reflective Function

Research interests

Main research focus is the evaluation of structural aspects of the personality. We focus on two core aspects of personality structure, namely attachment representation and mentalization (operationalized as reflective function). From a psychoanalytic point of view, the investigation of structural aspects of the personality is central for diagnostics, therapy planning, and the evaluation of treatment response in addition to descriptive diagnostic approaches. Major parts of the concept of personality structure have recently been adopted by the alternative DSM-5 model for personality disorders. Both impairments in mentalizing capacity and insecure/unresolved attachment status have been linked to psychopathology.

Techniques, methods & infrastructure

Both for the assessment of mentalization and the assessment of attachment representation semistructured interviews (Adult Attachment Interview; George, Kaplan, Main 1985) are conducted and transcribed verbatim. Reflective Function, an operationalized measure of mentalization, is rated according to the Reflective Functioning Scale (Fonagy et al. 1998), and attachment representation is assessed by means of the Main, Hesse & Goldwyn procedure (2002). In addition, a dimensional measure of attachment has been introduced (Waters et al. 2005). The assessments of mentalization and attachment representation are time consuming procedures and raters have to attend a training course and undergo reliability tests. The application of these concepts allows us to study different aspects of personality structure on a comprehensive and detailed level and aims at enhancing our knowledge of psychopathology, at improving the level of differentiation in therapy-planning, and at investigating structural changes in the course of therapy.

Selected publications

  1. Fischer-Kern, M. et al., 2013. Mentalizing in Female Inpatients With Major Depressive Disorder. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 201(3), pp.202-207. Available at:
  2. Fischer-Kern, M. et al., 2011. The Relationship between Personality Organization and Psychiatric Classification in Chronic Pain Patients. Psychopathology, 44(1), pp.21-26. Available at:
  3. Doering, S. et al., 2010. Transference-focused psychotherapy v. treatment by community psychotherapists for borderline personality disorder: randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 196(5), pp.389-395. Available at: