Building a Life Worth Living: A Memoir by Marsha M. Linehan
Marsha Linehan tells the story of her journey from a suicidal teenager to the world-renowned developer of the life-saving behavioral therapy DBT, using her own struggle to develop life skills for others.
“This book is a victory on both sides of the page.”—Gloria Steinem
“Are you one of us?” a patient once asked Marsha Linehan, the world-renowned psychologist who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy. “Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.”
Over the years, DBT had saved the lives of countless people fighting depression and suicidal thoughts, but Linehan had never revealed that her pioneering work was inspired by her own desperate struggles as a young woman. Only when she received this question did she finally decide to tell her story.
In this remarkable and inspiring memoir, Linehan describes how, when she was eighteen years old, she began an abrupt downward spiral from a popular teenager to a suicidal young woman. After several miserable years in a psychiatric institute, Linehan made a vow that if she could get out of emotional hell, she would try to find a way to help others get out of hell too and to build a life worth living. She went on to put herself through night school and college, living at a YWCA and often scraping together spare change to buy food. She went on to get her Ph.D. in psychology, specializing in behavior therapy. In the 1980s, she achieved a breakthrough when she developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a therapeutic approach that combines acceptance of the self and ways to change. Linehan included mindfulness as a key component in therapy treatment, along with original and specific life-skill techniques. She says, “You can’t think yourself into new ways of acting; you can only act yourself into new ways of thinking.”
Throughout her extraordinary scientific career, Marsha Linehan remained a woman of deep spirituality. Her powerful and moving story is one of faith and perseverance. Linehan shows, in Building a Life Worth Living, how the principles of DBT really work—and how, using her life skills and techniques, people can build lives worth living.
About the author:
Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Professor of Psychology and adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and is Director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics, a research consortium that develops and evaluates treatments for multi-diagnostic, severely disordered, and suicidal populations. Her primary research is in the application of behavioral models to suicidal behaviors, drug abuse, and borderline personality disorder. She is also working to develop effective models for transferring science-based treatments to the clinical community.
She is the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a treatment originally developed for the treatment of suicidal behaviors and since expanded to treatment of borderline personality disorder and other severe and complex mental disorders involving serious emotion dysregulation. In comparison to all other clinical interventions for suicidal behaviors, DBT is the only treatment that has been shown effective in multiple trials across numerous independent research studies. DBT is effective at reducing suicidal behavior and is cost-effective in comparison to both standard treatment and community treatments delivered by expert therapists. It is currently the gold-standard treatment for borderline personality disorder and has demonstrated utility in the treatment of high substance abuse and eating disorders.
Linehan has authored multiple books, including three treatment manuals: Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT Skills Training Manual (2nd ed.), and Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. She serves on a number of editorial boards and has published extensively in scientific journals.
Linehan is the founder of The Linehan Institute, a non-profit organization that helps advance mental health through support for education, research, and compassionate, scientifically-based treatments. Linehan is also the founder of Behavioral Tech LLC, a DBT training and consulting organization, and the founder of Behavioral Tech Research, Inc., a company that develops innovative online and mobile technologies to disseminate science-based behavioral treatments for mental disorders.
Linehan was trained in spiritual directions under Gerald May and Tilden Edwards and is a Zen master (Roshi) in both the Sanbo-Kyodan-School under Willigis Jaeger Roshi (Germany) as well as in the Diamond Sangha (USA). She teaches mindfulness via workshops and retreats for health care providers.
She has dedicated her life and research to working with people whose lives are at-risk due to crippling and incapacitating psychological problems.
Reviews About the ebook Building a Life Worth Living
It’s a fine autobiography of and by Marsha Linehan, one of my personal heroes in the field of psychology/psychotherapy. I’m a psychologist who once worked with patients diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (and I grew up with a mother with BPD), so I have much experience with the suffering that these individuals live with and, often, inflict on others. Marsha survived the kind of descent into hell that is characteristic of these patients, but/and she found her way out and vowed to use her life to help bring others out of that same hell. And she fulfilled her vow with the development of the first truly effective therapeutic method for these patients. The components of the interventions she uses are designed to allow the patients to build for themselves, with the help of a well-trained therapist, a life worth living. Research clearly indicates that her method works. The only “downer” in this story is something Marsha did not directly address, which is the fact that traditional Ph.D. and MD training is not adequate to produce psychotherapists who are competent to use this type of therapy (the same is true for master’s level therapists). There is a HUGE disconnect in our nation between the enormous need for competent psychotherapists and the institutions that actually provide the training and do the licensing. The truth is that most psychotherapists of all disciplines graduate and get licensed without ever having received the kind of training and supervision that is required to produce a competent therapist. And few people talk about it; personally, I did my best to address this while I was teaching at a small university with a master’s degree program in counseling; my efforts were not welcomed with open arms. The prevailing view in those institutions is that the old form of training was good enough.
A perfect book to be published in January Building a Life Worth Living A Memoir. I remember the first time I heard Borderline Personality Disorder was from the movie, “Girl Interrupted” and I thought to myself that sounds like me. And I think when that book and movie came out I was still in high school. Well, last year I heard the phrase again when a psychiatrist diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder on top of my depression and anxiety. I was fortunate enough to attend a program that used Marsha’s development of DBT therapy and I have continued using the same therapy today. I thought her memoir was touching and she gave clear concrete examples of how her suffering and thinking led her to help others and create DBT. I think at times she lost me when she switched from her narrative to explaining DBT and this crossed between memoir and self-help. Very inspiring and I highly recommend it.
- Paige Pagnotta:
I have been a DBT therapist for about 15 years. One of my former coworkers was sent Building a Life Worth Living A Memoir ebook by the publisher to read and review. I sent the publisher an email and asked for a copy as well, citing training I had done as a participant and facilitator, reviews of books pertaining to DBT which I had read, and even included a photo of me with Marsha from training in Seattle. I read it in one sitting and immediately purchased a copy through Amazon so I could loan it out. I tried not to do my normal reading thing–make notes in pencil, annotate specific quotes in a small notebook, and make a list of other books to read–but resorted to this by page 75. I also was making apple butter with pecans so had wonderful aromas in the kitchen as well as a pot of strong coffee. Then, to make the mood absolutely perfect–had my Alexa speaker play Adele. I think Marsha would have enjoyed that. I have been fortunate to participate in training with Marsha and to have staffed clients with her. She used to have students from her intensive training over for dinner at her house. It was absolutely wonderful to walk around arm-in-arm with her and have her tell me kind thoughts and wish me well with my clients. That was really one of my life’s highlights.Around 2012 I was doing a DBT group with adolescent girls. One 12 years old asked if possibly Marsha was ‘one of us?’ I asked her what she meant by that, why did she think so? And the child said it was because she seemed to know exactly what we had been through. I nodded and told them about the NY Times article and brought it in the following week. When I had met Marsha her arms still bore severe scarring.
On page 176 Marsha talks about using occasional strategic helplessness–which had me laughing out loud. When my oldest daughter was 18, the car made a funny noise and we pulled off-road. She asked how we would get some help? I knew this kid was going to be moving out and on her own and I suggested she pop the hood and look forlornly at the engine–said some man would be by in about 5 minutes to help us out. Yes. I did that even after having come up in the ’70s and having been told no most of my life–I have used occasional strategic helplessness to my advantage.
On page 272 there is a remarkable awareness of the misery shared by many borderline clients which Marsha identifies as being homesick. How poignant. What an apt description.
There is a brilliant quote by Rainer Maria Rilke that should be on the wall of all DBT therapists, at least 4 other books I want to look up. Much of the information on skills and research was familiar to me. It was fun to go to the ISITDBT conference and see many of the DBT rock stars.
Many DBT therapists are gifted trainers and have helped thousands of people over the course of their work. Marsha is a solid human being who has made the most of what was given to and made available to her. She is a remarkable human being. She loves her clients and her work. If the level of DBT experience and capability was identified by the seat number you were given at the world’s largest stadium–I would probably be at home watching the event on TV. Still, Marsha makes everyone feel they belong at the head table.
One last thing. I grew up in Connecticut and our mother was at the Institute of Living on several occasions–also in the 1960s into the early 1970s. A sad dialectic– it was a renowned hospital and it was unpleasant. Shock treatments and cold packs were often the norm and no one spoke of mental illness. Marsha’s development of biosocial theory and her path to wellness is earned.
This book would be validating to persons with a borderline personality disorder, their family members, therapists who provide DBT services, and especially those who may work with persons with borderline personality disorder who do not share the love of those suffering.
Thank you, Marsha. We love you.
Please buy Building a Life Worth Living A Memoir book. Anyone who is stuck in depression. Experiences recurring depression or If you are emotionally stuck but have the ability to use your intellect to sort through your problems, get this book. Very compelling. The author refers a lot to the most damaged patients, but anyone needing skills to function in this world will benefit from this book.
- Bethany Vaughn:
With this memoir Building a Life Worth Living A Memoir, Marsha Linehan enters the pantheon of great American folk heroes. Marsha stands alongside Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, all of whom suffered deeply, and embarked on a quest to find a path out of hell, first for themselves, and then for others. To her credit, and to the world’s good fortune, Marsha Linehan’s commitment included a rigorous commitment to scientific psychology. Few people can match Marsha’s sheer grit and determination in the face of obstacles, inner or outer. The heart of that determination came from a commitment to serve humanity, following a spiritual epiphany at age twenty. The result was the creation of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), evidence-based therapy for chronically suicidal, and self-injurious people. But DBT also serves as a lifeway for all those who wish to live a more meaningful, rich, and effective life. And who among us doesn’t? Marsha’s life journey is chronicled, from her descent into the torment of her youth, to her role as a world-renowned scientist and clinical innovator, and finally as a Zen teacher and spiritual mentor. Marsha’s voice, her wisdom, and her terrific sense of humor can be heard throughout the memoir. Her discovery of how to live an “antidepressant life” is priceless (p. 182 -183) and, if followed, is by itself worth buying the book. When you’ve finished the last page, you’ll be momentarily breathless and deeply moved. Then, you’ll want to immediately share it, by giving it away to someone you love.