Who is Marsha Linehan? Biography – A Success Story

Marsha Linehan is the creator of behavioral dialectic therapy. Marsha Linehan attempted suicide many times. She was first diagnosed with schizophrenia. Marsha Linehan actually suffered from a borderline personality disorder (BPD), and in the future, she would develop a method of therapy against his own illness.

This therapy, called behavioral dialectic therapy (DBT), is one of the most searched therapy methods on Google in 2019. With behavioral dialectic therapy (DBT), Marsha Linehan worked with the most difficult patients attempting suicide. It has led to a permanent improvement in patients with behavioral dialectic therapy.

What is behavioral dialectic therapy ?

Behavioral dialectic therapy, or “dialectical behavior therapy”, is a type of psychotherapy that can help people who are experiencing debilitating distress, which includes anxiety disorders. The goal of the treatment is to balance the patient’s need for stability with their yearning for spontaneity and creativity.

Marsha Linehan and Behavioral Dialectic Therapy

It was developed in 1992 by psychologist Marsha Linehan in response to her observation that many patients were dealing with seeming oppositions in philosophy in the way they lived their lives, deciding between impulsivity and deliberate control early on during developmental stages. Founded on Eastern philosophical approaches like Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent protests and Zen Buddhism philosophies, Linehan created this psychological approach by constructing two seemingly opposing constructs.

Behavioral Dialectic Therapy, also known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. It was developed in the late 1980s by Marsha Linehan, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, as a treatment for people with a borderline personality disorder.

DBT is based on the idea that people have a tendency to think in black-and-white terms, which often leads to problems in their lives. DBT helps people learn how to shift their thinking from black-and-white to more flexible thinking, and to see the world in shades of gray. This helps them find more effective ways to deal with their problems.

marsha linehan
marsha linehan


Marsha Linehan (born May 5, 1943) is an American professor, psychologist, and writer. The 78-year-old Professor, Marsha Linehan, lived a very extraordinary life. Her life is a complete success story and life is full of struggles. Marsha Linehan applied the discipline of self-knowledge, self-acceptance, and struggle with her own truths to her life. Moreover, she specialized in this field and has changed the lives of many patients positively.

“I honestly didn’t realize at the time that I was dealing with myself,” she said. “But I suppose it’s true that I developed a therapy that provides the things I needed for so many years and never got.”

On March 9, 1961, at the age of 17, Marsha Linehan was admitted to the Institute of Living in the Psychiatric clinic. She was placed in the section where the most severe patients were left. Marsha Linehan later said, “I’ve had hell.” (source)

At the age of 17, Marsha Linehan remained in this small and secluded cell room for 26 months: a chair, a jar with iron railings. But in this room, her desire to commit suicide has deepened. She couldn’t find anything to hurt her, and she hit his head against a wall.

Marsha Linehan then made the following statement:

“My whole experience of these episodes was that someone else was doing it; it was like ‘I know this is coming, I’m out of control, somebody help me; where are you, God?’ ” she said. “I felt totally empty, like the Tin Man; I had no way to communicate what was going on, no way to understand it.”

So why was this constant repeated suicidal desire? How did Marsha Linehan suffer from trauma in her childhood? Why was she so keen to die? Did she hate himself? What was so difficult in her childhood?

She was an excellent student in his early childhood. Marsha Linehan was the third child of a family of six children. Her mother was a childcare worker with social activities in Tulsa.

People who know Linehans recall that they often have problems at home. Dr.Linehan When she compared herself to her attractive and successful sisters, she recalls that she felt very inadequate. But in the last year of high school, she was bedridden. By this time, no one knew Linehans’ problems.

Her younger sister, Aline Haynes, said: “This was Tulsa in the 1960s, and I don’t think my parents had any idea what to do with Marsha. No one really knew what mental illness was.”

Dr. Linehan will then say:

“Everyone was terrified of ending up in there,” said Sebern Fisher, a fellow patient who became a close friend of her. But whatever her surroundings, Ms. Fisher added, “Marsha was capable of caring a great deal about another person; her passion was as deep as her loneliness.”

A discharge summary, dated May 31, 1963, noted that “during 26 months of hospitalization, Miss Linehan was, for a considerable part of this time, one of the most disturbed patients in the hospital.”

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A verse the troubled girl wrote at the time reads:

They put me in a four-walled room

But left me really out

My soul was tossed somewhere askew

My limbs were tossed here about

As a result, this treatment made her worse. She then realized that she had to face her true feelings. She had to face herself and she had to do it alone.

Dr. Linehan

“I was in hell,” she said. “And I made a vow: when I get out, I’m going to come back and get others out of here.”

In prayer in a small church in Chicago, she felt the power of another perspective.

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The doctors did not give her the chance to live outside the hospital. She was a 20-year-old hopeless girl. At the age of 20, she left the institute of psychology. But she survived even if she had great difficulties. When she first came home in Tulsa, she committed suicide once then she moved to a YMCA in Chicago. She was hospitalized here again. She started working for an insurance company here. After working at night, she attended night classes at Loyola University. She spent most of her time working and praying at a church in the Cenacle Retreat Center.

“One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold — and suddenly I felt something coming toward me,” she said. “It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”

During this time, she had severe crisis, but now she was not harming herself.

The Great Change Begins Now

After graduating from university, she worked for many years in Psychology. She also received her doctorate. 1971 in Loyola. Now she accepted herself as she is.

She was beginning to find her own awareness. Now she accepted himself. There was a gap between her and the person she had never dreamed of. This cliff was real and she accepted it.

This idea of ​​self-acceptance was a radical idea. This thought became increasingly important as it began working with patients in a suicide clinic in Buffalo and later as a researcher. Yes, that was a real change and it’s possible. The discipline of behavior has taught that people can learn new behaviors and that those who behave differently sometimes can change emotions from the very beginning.

The only way to reach suicidal people was to accept that their behavior was meaningful:

Dr. Linehan incorporates two seemingly opposing principles that can form the basis of treatment: to accept life as it should; and in spite of this fact and the need to change it. In order to prove this, She began to use this method in his therapies.

Dr. Linehan decided to treat people in the worst case of suicidal ideation and action. She worked with patients who were constantly self-destructing, trying to commit suicide with thoughts of death, outbursts, and nervous breakdowns.


Yet even as she climbed the academic ladder, moving from the Catholic University of America to the University of Washington in 1977, she understood from her own experience that acceptance and change were hardly enough. During those first years in Seattle she sometimes felt suicidal while driving to work; even today, she can feel rushes of panic, most recently while driving through tunnels.

Most remarkably, perhaps, Dr. Linehan has reached a place where she can stand up and tell her story. “I’m a very happy person now,” she said in an interview at her house near campus, where she lives with her adopted daughter, Geraldine, and Geraldine’s husband, Nate. “I still have ups and downs, of course, but I think no more than anyone else.”
After her coming-out speech last week, she visited the seclusion room, which has since been converted to a small office. “Well, look at that, they changed the windows,” she said, holding her palms up. “There’s so much more light.”


Published Books of Marsha Linehan

Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder 1

Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder 2

Last Updated on December 10, 2022 by Lucas Berg


1 thought on “Who is Marsha Linehan? Biography – A Success Story”

  1. Hello Marilyn Walker,
    I am a freshman at South University pursuing a degree in psychology. I really enjoyed this article and the way you portrayed Dr. Marsha Linehan. Dr. Linehan has been a big influence on my decision to go to college later in life. I was first exposed to her work on DBT when I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I struggled for years before I was diagnosed and many years after. I still have my struggles and I know what that journey looks like so I want to help others especially men who are tremendously less likely to get help. I just wanted you to know that I think this is a very well-written and informative article.

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