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Building a Life Worth Living: A Memoir

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Marsha Linehan tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to 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 Marsha Linehan tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to 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 popular teenager to 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 the YWCA and often scraping together spare change to buy food. She went on to get her PhD 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.


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Marsha Linehan tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to 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 Marsha Linehan tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to 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 popular teenager to 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 the YWCA and often scraping together spare change to buy food. She went on to get her PhD 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.

30 review for Building a Life Worth Living: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Delany

    Its a fine autobiography of and by Marsha Linehan, one of my personal heroes in the field of psychology/psychotherapy. Im 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 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 PhD 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

    A perfect book to be published in January. 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 A perfect book to be published in January. 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 a 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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Gibian

    Marsha Linehan single-handedly changed how psychotherapy approached people with traits known as "borderline," a group of people considered not likely to benefit from therapy. In the 1990s brought in an approach that combined cognitive-behavioral therapy, feminism, and mindfulness practice. I got trained in this approach and loved it - I loved how usable the skills were, how it broke down the separation between "us" and "them" (as many of "us" therapists began integrating these skills into our Marsha Linehan single-handedly changed how psychotherapy approached people with traits known as "borderline," a group of people considered not likely to benefit from therapy. In the 1990s brought in an approach that combined cognitive-behavioral therapy, feminism, and mindfulness practice. I got trained in this approach and loved it - I loved how usable the skills were, how it broke down the separation between "us" and "them" (as many of "us" therapists began integrating these skills into our lives as well), and I loved how many clients were benefitting. So of course I wanted to love Linehan's memoir, in which she was to talk about her own experience with "emotional hell," institutionalization, and therapies that did not work. Unfortunately, the book does not deliver. I abandoned the book fifty pages in, because already by then, it was repetitive, poorly written, not at all engaging nor gripping, and more or less an infomercial for Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, the quite wonderful therapy she created. Leave the book but learn about the therapy; that's my takeaway.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Vaughn

    As a teen, Marsha Linehan experienced suicidal ideation and was sent to an institution for the mentally unwell. Toward the end of her time there, she made a vow to God that once she got herself out of hell, she would do everything she could to get others out, too. DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), is what Marsha created as her best effort to keep her vow and help patients with suicidal behavior. She is so intelligent and dedicated to helping others! I thought this book has such a powerful As a teen, Marsha Linehan experienced suicidal ideation and was sent to an institution for the mentally unwell. Toward the end of her time there, she made a vow to God that once she got herself out of hell, she would do everything she could to get others out, too. DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), is what Marsha created as her best effort to keep her vow and help patients with suicidal behavior. She is so intelligent and dedicated to helping others! I thought this book has such a powerful viewpoint. It was very interesting to read of a therapist who has suffered from the same challenges that her patients are experiencing. This book is great for fans of psychology or memoir. Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for gifting me this book in exchange for my honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Simpson

    This memoir shows the beauty and power of the wounded healer. Not only did she use her pain to singlehandedly advance mental health treatment, but she bravely risked all of that to inspire others through this same story. I was especially moved by the parts about her spiritual path. The quote, I eventually learned that when it comes to spirituality, the more you actively want it, the less likely it is to happen. You have to throw yourself into your life as it is, and be open to whatever might be This memoir shows the beauty and power of the wounded healer. Not only did she use her pain to singlehandedly advance mental health treatment, but she bravely risked all of that to inspire others through this same story. I was especially moved by the parts about her spiritual path. The quote, “I eventually learned that when it comes to spirituality, the more you actively want it, the less likely it is to happen. You have to throw yourself into your life as it is, and be open to whatever might be” or said another way in the book, “You can’t think yourself into new ways of acting; you can only act yourself into new ways of thinking”. Great Book!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura Davenport

    Absolutely terrible. You can appreciate the empire she built as long as you dont read the book. Absolutely terrible. You can appreciate the empire she built as long as you don’t read the book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Wow. This book is a treat. I rarely buy books, and as soon as I learned she was releasing a memoir, I pre-ordered and had to wait. I am not disappointed. Maybe it's already obvious, I am a huge fan of Linehan and her therapy teachings, I imagine most people who pick up this book will be. This book is really well constructed, edited and her sense of humor comes out. I have truly enjoyed learning more about Marsha the the origins of DBT.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    As a psychologist and DBT practitioner, but also a great memoir fan, I give this book a resounding 5++ stars! Marshas story in beyond inspirational and I am floored at how she was able to integrate her meaningful life experiences into a scientifically effective treatment. Her story gives me hope and will help me to instill hope in the clients I treat. No one else couldve created this therapy. We are lucky to have Marsha. As a psychologist and DBT practitioner, but also a great memoir fan, I give this book a resounding 5++ stars! Marsha’s story in beyond inspirational and I am floored at how she was able to integrate her meaningful life experiences into a scientifically effective treatment. Her story gives me hope and will help me to instill hope in the clients I treat. No one else could’ve created this therapy. We are lucky to have Marsha.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenn Veilleux

    The story of how Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) came to be is definitely interesting, especially for a clinical psychologist like me. That said, I had a lot of judgments about the storytelling in the first third especially.... the memory lapses seemed odd and inconsistent (which I guess makes sense for memory?) and it seemed weird that she said she was popular and normal and just "descended into hell." Yet later it was clear there were precipitants. I just felt like some of the narrative was The story of how Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) came to be is definitely interesting, especially for a clinical psychologist like me. That said, I had a lot of judgments about the storytelling in the first third especially.... the memory lapses seemed odd and inconsistent (which I guess makes sense for memory?) and it seemed weird that she said she was popular and normal and just "descended into hell." Yet later it was clear there were precipitants. I just felt like some of the narrative was performative, and I hate saying that about anyone linked to BPD because "manipulative" is a term often overused for people with PBD symptoms that really reduces the pain they experience. I can say I really enjoyed the later parts about merging behavior therapy with zen practice.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Wiegand

    A goodreads giveaway win that I was actually looking forward to reading. The book is an interesting one detailing the development of DBT thereapy for suicidal people who have borderline personality disorder. I enjoyed reading about the development of the most effective treatment for these conditions - especially since it is the true life story of someone who actually struggled with the disorder that developed the protocol. Her writing is a bit scattered - but the description of the process was A goodreads giveaway win that I was actually looking forward to reading. The book is an interesting one detailing the development of DBT thereapy for suicidal people who have borderline personality disorder. I enjoyed reading about the development of the most effective treatment for these conditions - especially since it is the true life story of someone who actually struggled with the disorder that developed the protocol. Her writing is a bit scattered - but the description of the process was fascinating. I especially liked the fact that there were some helpful guides in the back of the book. Worth reading. I would have given it 4 stars - but the writing style was not comfortable for me to read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ridgewood Public

    **Kerri's Review** I thought Marsha Linehan's memoir was touching and she gave a clear concrete examples of how her experience as a patient (which involved heavy medication, isolation and shock treatment) at the Institute for Living led her better her life so that she could help others with self-harm and sucidal ideations. Her research and studies helped her to create Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in the 80's and is being renowned and used in more of today's therapy programs. Very inspiring **Kerri's Review** I thought Marsha Linehan's memoir was touching and she gave a clear concrete examples of how her experience as a patient (which involved heavy medication, isolation and shock treatment) at the Institute for Living led her better her life so that she could help others with self-harm and sucidal ideations. Her research and studies helped her to create Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in the 80's and is being renowned and used in more of today's therapy programs. Very inspiring and I highly recommend.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe Cushman-Auslander

    The multiple famous people extolling this book on the back jacket clearly did not read the book. Marsha Linehan is a genius and her DBT has helped thousands of people live lives worth living, but this book is not well written and sheds little light on her life (especially if you are already familiar with DBT). Instead, it reads like a series of disconnected episodes, mostly from her professional life and her (admittedly impressive) accomplishments, with very little in the way of personal The multiple famous people extolling this book on the back jacket clearly did not read the book. Marsha Linehan is a genius and her DBT has helped thousands of people live lives “worth living,” but this book is not well written and sheds little light on her life (especially if you are already familiar with DBT). Instead, it reads like a series of disconnected episodes, mostly from her professional life and her (admittedly impressive) accomplishments, with very little in the way of personal reflections offered on these episodes. I did not feel like I got to know her much at all through this book—a real disappointment.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I have an endless amount of respect and appreciation for what Marsha Linehan has done for mental health and how much help she has provided to the world, but I feel at most I can rate this memoir a 3.5. Her life story is interesting and the information about DBT is engaging, but personally I did not enjoy the writing style or the layout of this memoir. The writing was extremely cliche, which I could have overlooked if not for how repetitive it was in nature. As for the layout, I enjoyed that the I have an endless amount of respect and appreciation for what Marsha Linehan has done for mental health and how much help she has provided to the world, but I feel at most I can rate this memoir a 3.5. Her life story is interesting and the information about DBT is engaging, but personally I did not enjoy the writing style or the layout of this memoir. The writing was extremely cliche, which I could have overlooked if not for how repetitive it was in nature. As for the layout, I enjoyed that the memoir was told in small sections but the jumping around in time made the chronology confusing (at least for me) and there were some areas where foreshadowing was used unnecessarily. I am glad I read Building A Life Worth Living and I would recommend it to others, but I am unlikely to ever read it again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    G

    Must-read for anyone in the mental healthcare sector. She explains the basis for DBT and her thinking behind it. It's quite helpful for a clinician.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    This was a good memoir about Marsha and how she created DBT therapy. It helped me learn more about DBT overall as well as how the author used her own experiences to create it and help a lot of people. I would reccomend this book to anyone who is considering DBT therapy or just beginning it. I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Bishop

    Its certainly a decent book, but it likely will not interest anyone who doesnt already have an interest in the founder of dialectical behavior therapy. The writing is pleasant enough, but the disorganized hops across time muddle the clarity of the storys chronology. Linehans life is remarkable even as her gaps in memory leave us with more questions than answers about some of the early events in her life. Overall, Id recommend this for anyone who has a prior interest in Linehan, but it is It’s certainly a decent book, but it likely will not interest anyone who doesn’t already have an interest in the founder of dialectical behavior therapy. The writing is pleasant enough, but the disorganized hops across time muddle the clarity of the story’s chronology. Linehan’s life is remarkable even as her gaps in memory leave us with more questions than answers about some of the early events in her life. Overall, I’d recommend this for anyone who has a prior interest in Linehan, but it is unlikely to inspire or enlighten those who have never even heard of DBT.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jreader

    I have been a DBT therapist for about 15 years. One of my former coworkers was sent this book by the publisher to read and review. I sent the publisher an email and asked for a copy as well, citing trainings 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 a training in Seattle. The book came yesterday, I read it in one sitting and immediately purchased a copy through Amazon so I could loan it out. I I have been a DBT therapist for about 15 years. One of my former coworkers was sent this book by the publisher to read and review. I sent the publisher an email and asked for a copy as well, citing trainings 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 a training in Seattle. The book came yesterday, 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 trainings with Marsha and to have staffed clients with her. She used to have students from her intensive trainings 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 year 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 70's 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 have a seat 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. While it was a renowned hospital, 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 are earned. This book would be validating to persons with 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This book wasn't really what I expected, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. I read this book because I love DBT and I was very excited to read that the creator of DBT had gone through her own mental health struggle and that she had a memoir about it. However, I was left disappointed because it seems Marsha doesn't remember much about her childhood, her life before she went into the mental institution or her time there, so it doesn't really give any insight or explanation to her experiences of This book wasn't really what I expected, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. I read this book because I love DBT and I was very excited to read that the creator of DBT had gone through her own mental health struggle and that she had a memoir about it. However, I was left disappointed because it seems Marsha doesn't remember much about her childhood, her life before she went into the mental institution or her time there, so it doesn't really give any insight or explanation to her experiences of mental illness. She states that she went through hell for 2 years, and that she was one of the most "incurable" patient, but doesn't remember anything about how or why. I was expecting this book to mostly center on these mental health struggles and Marsha's time in the institution, much like other memoirs on mental illness. It kind of was a let down, and made the first half of the book a bit boring Most of the book is written on her adult life, some of which to be honest isn't any more interesting than reading about any other normal persons life. The most interesting parts come in the second half of the book when she talks about her experiences with Zen Buddhism and how it influenced the creation of various DBT skills. Even though the book wasn't what I expected, and I was disapointed, I feel the insight gained from these chapters made up for that fact and makes it worth reading. The book is more about how Marsha created DBT through her spiritual journey, rather than about her time in the insitution. The book is also pretty disorganized, going back and forth from one point in time to the next, I couldn't really keep up with what time we were in. You can also tell that Marsha is meant to be a scientist, not a writer, her writing can be pretty repetitive and dull at times. Overall I would recommend this book to people who are adamant followers of DBT, but it may be boring for those who do not follow DBT (for those people I recommend to study DBT because like Marsha says, they are life skills for everyone!). I am obsessed with DBT and this made me love DBT even more and get an even deeper understanding of it all. It was very interesting to hear the struggle she went through to get DBT mainstream, the story behind many skills, and how she uses the skills in her own life. There are quotes in the book that I know I will carry with me for a long time. Both Inspirational and Boring, this book touches all portions of that dialectic ;)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alison Hastings

    This is definitely one of the best books I have ever read. I wish I could give it an extra star. The reader goes on a journey, a very reflective, honest and educational journey. I loved the sharing of imperfections, disappointments and rejections in addition to the expected and unexpected successes. It is not a regular journey. It is a very unique journey that combines scientific and spiritual observations, a discussion of what makes a difference and the things that can and cannot be measured. This is definitely one of the best books I have ever read. I wish I could give it an extra star. The reader goes on a journey, a very reflective, honest and educational journey. I loved the sharing of imperfections, disappointments and rejections in addition to the expected and unexpected successes. It is not a regular journey. It is a very unique journey that combines scientific and spiritual observations, a discussion of what makes a difference and the things that can and cannot be measured. Some of the outcomes that could eventually be measured were only possible after the author herself became immersed in very key and essential experiences. The author beautifully and intelligently brought science and spirituality together in a context that was unlike anything I have ever read. I’m truly in awe of the way she told her personal component of the story without it overshadowing everything else. The journey is factual, non fiction of course but not a straight path from A to B. (In other words not boring) Instead, we are privileged to hear the thoughts and concerns in her head as she purposefully makes a path that others can follow out of their own hell. Although it is done with purpose it is not without challenges but she forges through many different habitats and terrains to find what does and does not work. She then presents a path that she did not just develop or put together but that she lived. I appreciated the way she introduced the significant people of her life into the book and how she smoothly embedded the depth of her gratitude into the telling of the story. Dialectical behavior therapy could really be called a guide to living. The wisdom is applicable to absolutely everyone and my description doesn’t even come close to conveying the beauty of this book. (Addendum: I think as a physician and a Buddhist I could really appreciate how she integrated science and spirituality.)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Iman

    Marsha Linehan is a psychologist and the creator of Dialectical Behavourial Therapy (DBT), a type of psychotherapy specifically designed to treat highly suicidal individuals. Several years ago Marsha revealed that she had once been one such individual and was hospitalized for years because of it. In this memoir, she recounts her life from adolescence to the moment she shared her secret to an audience at the same institution in which she was confined decades earlier. Marsha is a successful woman Marsha Linehan is a psychologist and the creator of Dialectical Behavourial Therapy (DBT), a type of psychotherapy specifically designed to treat highly suicidal individuals. Several years ago Marsha revealed that she had once been one such individual and was hospitalized for years because of it. In this memoir, she recounts her life from adolescence to the moment she shared her secret to an audience at the same institution in which she was confined decades earlier. Marsha is a successful woman by any standard and her story provides hope to those who find themselves in the throes of mental illness. This is what I had anticipated when I first started reading the memoir, that it will be intended for audiences looking to build a life worth living. I was not expecting a manual - it is a memoir after all - but the second half of the book is almost entirely about her struggles in developing DBT for patients with borderline personality disorder and how it finally received its deserved recognition in the psychiatric/psycho-therapeutic community. We are introduced to aspects of the therapy and how it can be practiced, but this information is largely disjointed and spread out incoherently in the book. In fact, the entire memoir read like it was written in a journal, maybe in the form of bullet points, and then refashioned into paragraphs. The repetitiveness, the odd abruptness of some passages, and the unnecessary long-windedness of others, all made it quite an effortful read. Unless you are specifically interested in the life of Marsha Linehan and how she came to develop DBT, I would not recommend this book. There are better memoirs out there that provide troubled readers hope for a more pleasant life. If it is DBT that interests you, Marsha and other specialists have written books and manuals that will likely provide you with a more coherent picture.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    Marsha Linehan is a brilliant scholar and psychotherapist. I heard her speak once at a conference and she was fantastic. Her work on BPD and DBT is remarkable and I have been impressed at the wide ranging self- and clinical-applicability of the model. I have found her clinical writing to be excellent and accessible. I admire how she has disclosed her own battle with a set of very stigmatized mental health challenges. I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately this memoir didnt live up to my Marsha Linehan is a brilliant scholar and psychotherapist. I heard her speak once at a conference and she was fantastic. Her work on BPD and DBT is remarkable and I have been impressed at the wide ranging self- and clinical-applicability of the model. I have found her clinical writing to be excellent and accessible. I admire how she has disclosed her own battle with a set of very stigmatized mental health challenges. I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately this memoir didn’t live up to my expectations. I was disappointed by the first half of the book, where she details her personal history. I recognize she faced a unique challenge in writing this section. Nevertheless, the writing struck me as prosaic, a bit juvenile, emotionally detached, and repetitive. Although her story is compelling, the way it was told did not resonate with me. I found it very difficult to keep reading. Midway through the book, Linehan brings up the idea of irreverence in therapy. In person, her irreverence shines through. In presentations and other writing, it is part of what makes her so compelling. You glimpse that only occasionally in the memoir; moreso in the second half (which I enjoyed more than the first half). I think I was expecting that quality to shine through more overall. I really respect Linehan’s decision not to integrate anonymized composite client vignettes; that is rare in psych/medical memoirs. However, I can’t deny that reading about these experiences is a major draw for me in reading these types of books. Unless you’re a diehard fan, I would say if you are interested in Linehan and DBT, a better choice might be to read the NYT piece about her as well as one of her skills manuals.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This book was not an enjoyable read; I'm baffled by all the 4 and 5 star reviews of this book. Labeling this book as a "memoir" is very misleading. I don't feel like I know that much more about Marsha Linehan than before I started reading the book. It started off interesting with Marsha talking a bit about her family of origin dynamics and her time at the Institute of Living, however, there was very little depth and substance to her writing after that. The writing is very disjointed throughout. This book was not an enjoyable read; I'm baffled by all the 4 and 5 star reviews of this book. Labeling this book as a "memoir" is very misleading. I don't feel like I know that much more about Marsha Linehan than before I started reading the book. It started off interesting with Marsha talking a bit about her family of origin dynamics and her time at the Institute of Living, however, there was very little depth and substance to her writing after that. The writing is very disjointed throughout. I'm not sure if it's due to her mentioning that she doesn't really have memories of certain times in her life (possibly due to memory loss, a sad side effect of ECT) or if she was purposely holding back on revealing a more vulnerable authentic self. She revealed insecurities for sure, but it really fell flat for me. I was also annoyed with the way chapters were written. Very short chapters that looked more like journal entries or short articles that didn't flow well. She also had various quotes from people in her personal and professional life that had glowing reviews of her. Then the book morphs into what at least one other reviewer has observed: an infomercial of sorts to promote DBT. She also goes off on tangents about her religious convictions and people in her life that didn't have much to do with the overall content of the book, maybe because there wasn't much of a life story...only anecdotes. What I wanted from this book was an intriguing story of "Who is Marsha Linehan?" and instead all I got was who everyone else perceives Marsha Linehan to be. Disappointing.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nickie Coby

    The DBT book I always wanted to read About 10 years ago, during a particularly dark time in my life, I was a DBT participant. I found DBT to be a life-saving and life-building experience. I have always wondered about the story behind DBT and the therapist who created it. I really enjoyed this story, it integrated both Marsha's story and so many of the skills that I found useful over the years. It was very cool to hear her story, and to see ways in which she uses the skills. If you've ever wanted The DBT book I always wanted to read About 10 years ago, during a particularly dark time in my life, I was a DBT participant. I found DBT to be a life-saving and life-building experience. I have always wondered about the story behind DBT and the therapist who created it. I really enjoyed this story, it integrated both Marsha's story and so many of the skills that I found useful over the years. It was very cool to hear her story, and to see ways in which she uses the skills. If you've ever wanted to meet Marsha and talk to her, this is probably the next best thing. It's a hope-filled and empathetic story. The narration is excellent, making it feel like you're sitting across the table from her, sharing a cup of coffee and conversation. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. If you have family or friends who suffer from any kind of mental health challenge, this book will help you understand what they might be feeling. if you went through DBT in the past, this book will help you through any dark times you may be experiencing. It's no substitute for therapy, but a caring voice to listen to.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paige Pagnotta

    I rarely leave such negative reviews but after finishing this book and seeing everyone raving about it, I feel like expressing my opinion on Marshas memoir (if you can call it that...). Im very familiar with dbt- Ive been through multiple dbt focused programs myself & have found it relatively helpful, and have also taught dbt skills to clients at work. So I was excited to read this and learn more about its creator! Wow, was I disappointed... I found this book to be extremely poorly executed. I rarely leave such negative reviews but after finishing this book and seeing everyone raving about it, I feel like expressing my opinion on Marsha’s “memoir” (if you can call it that...). I’m very familiar with dbt- I’ve been through multiple dbt focused programs myself & have found it relatively helpful, and have also taught dbt skills to clients at work. So I was excited to read this and learn more about its creator! Wow, was I disappointed... I found this book to be extremely poorly executed. It was disorganized and felt very detached and cold. Her story did not feel cohesive at all and the constant jumping around between several decades gave me whiplash. The majority of her anecdotes appeared to have zero point to them or did not relate to the rest of the chapter. I was also shocked at how poor the writing itself was. I read through to the end because I held out hope that it would get better, but it never did. I’m really surprised and curious about all of the high ratings....did we even read the same book??

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hallie

    Learning DBT skills has been an integral part of my development as a clinician, and teaching these skills is commonplace in my practice of therapy. I appreciated Linehan's memoir for perspective on how she developed DBT. It was fascinating to hear of such a personal origin for a therapy, and the way she wrote about her struggles as well as the struggles of her patients really emphasized the necessity of practicing compassion for all. A major takeaway from this work was that all behavior can be Learning DBT skills has been an integral part of my development as a clinician, and teaching these skills is commonplace in my practice of therapy. I appreciated Linehan's memoir for perspective on how she developed DBT. It was fascinating to hear of such a personal origin for a therapy, and the way she wrote about her struggles as well as the struggles of her patients really emphasized the necessity of practicing compassion for all. A major takeaway from this work was that all behavior can be understood. It may not be ideal behavior, or desired behavior, or excusable behavior, but it can be understood - and that has value. I am not normally an audiobook fan, but I do like the format for nonfiction and memoirs. This was a great listen! I've said it before and I'll stick to it - DBT skills can be helpful for EVERYONE. Linehan captures it perfectly as she often says, "DBT skills are life skills."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emily Michelle

    Marsha Linehan embodies the true meaning of a hero. When living through the exruciating hell of suicidal mental illness as a young adult in a psychaitric institution, she made a vow to get out of hell and then to figure out a way to get other people out too. She kept that vow with the brilliant creation of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Learning about her personal, academic, and faith journey that led to the creation of such a ground breaking treatment for highly suicidal individuals was beyond Marsha Linehan embodies the true meaning of a hero. When living through the exruciating hell of suicidal mental illness as a young adult in a psychaitric institution, she made a vow to get out of hell and then to figure out a way to get other people out too. She kept that vow with the brilliant creation of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Learning about her personal, academic, and faith journey that led to the creation of such a ground breaking treatment for highly suicidal individuals was beyond inspirational. Her final message in the book was this: "I only hope that you will develop the skills you need and that you will also help others have the skills they need to experience life as worth living-if I can do it, you can do it too." All I can say is that my gratitude for this woman is endless and that I'm filled with joy to finally be on the way to fufilling my own vow to help people out of hell.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) may well be the single most important development in the mental health field of the past twenty years- or longer. Marsha Linehan is the creator of this amazingly successful therapy. She began it as a way of helping suicidal people get out of hell. It became the therapy of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder, then PTSD, then Substance Abuse. As an addiction counselor, I have seen it help many to a new understanding of how to begin and maintain sobriety. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) may well be the single most important development in the mental health field of the past twenty years- or longer. Marsha Linehan is the creator of this amazingly successful therapy. She began it as a way of helping suicidal people get out of hell. It became the therapy of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder, then PTSD, then Substance Abuse. As an addiction counselor, I have seen it help many to a new understanding of how to begin and maintain sobriety. I was excited when I discovered this new book- Marsha Linehan's own story- her memoir- and how DBT developed. It is personal and real. Marsha, in spite of her relentless intensity, comes through the pages with compassion and honesty. She tells of her own time in hell- suicidal, cutting behaviors, depression, locked units. She is the real deal! If you want to see how mental health therapy can bring life to people, this will show it. Thank you, Marsha, for being you and sharing yourself with so many others.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cath

    Incredible memoir! I can't imagine the courage and vulnerability it must have taken her to write this book. I picked it up because my own therapist mentioned "Dialectical Behavior Therapy" to me and when I looked it up, the whole thing spoke to me. "Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, cope healthily with stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others." Mindfulness and spirituality - wrapped up in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Makes so much sense. Her Incredible memoir! I can't imagine the courage and vulnerability it must have taken her to write this book. I picked it up because my own therapist mentioned "Dialectical Behavior Therapy" to me and when I looked it up, the whole thing spoke to me. "Its main goals are to teach people how to live in the moment, cope healthily with stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others." Mindfulness and spirituality - wrapped up in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Makes so much sense. Her book speaks of her faith- steadfast- ever changing and an incredibly important part of her journey to developing DBT and to her own happiness. I'll be reading more memoirs of spiritual journeys if they're all as captivating and informative as Marsha's.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jarrod Job

    Thankful for This Few Sentence Learning: Without this book, the DBT would be monotone and statuesque. With this book, the DBT approach gains color and vibrancy. Books Target Audience: I fee as if it is written for Therapists, DBT Students, and People interested in learning more about DBT/BPD solves. Not really a book for anybody outside of the interest. Likes: Reveals details that help solidify concepts and their origins in DBT. Raw. Vulnerable. Honest. Unabridged Dislikes: Writing was redundant at Thankful for This Few Sentence Learning: Without this book, the DBT would be monotone and statuesque. With this book, the DBT approach gains color and vibrancy. Books Target Audience: I fee as if it is written for Therapists, DBT Students, and People interested in learning more about DBT/BPD solves. Not really a book for anybody outside of the interest. Likes: Reveals details that help solidify concepts and their origins in DBT. Raw. Vulnerable. Honest. Unabridged Dislikes: Writing was redundant at points. I was vested as a student of DBT, so I was interested to pull me through. Considering somebody lukewarm on the topic may be something hard to get through. In sum: Marsha did it. So can I.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Luiza Martin

    Marsha Linehan shares her life story and how DBT came to be. I can't put this book down it's written so well. The story Marsha portrays is raw, emotional and inspiring. It's a good read if you want to know about DBT and how it came about. Marsha's story is one of great turmoil but despite her hardships, she creates a therapy that helps others get out of the hell of a life they are in. This book is a pick me up again kind of book in my opinion and one I'd gladly read over and over again. What I Marsha Linehan shares her life story and how DBT came to be. I can't put this book down it's written so well. The story Marsha portrays is raw, emotional and inspiring. It's a good read if you want to know about DBT and how it came about. Marsha's story is one of great turmoil but despite her hardships, she creates a therapy that helps others get out of the hell of a life they are in. This book is a pick me up again kind of book in my opinion and one I'd gladly read over and over again. What I learned from this book is that I am not alone. This book gave me a sense of hope that no other book ever has. Thank you Marsha for sharing your story and being a light to so many struggling souls. You are truly an inspiration.

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