Chance are if you have had a mental health challenge or you support someone who does, you have heard of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is an incredibly effective cognitive-behavioral therapy that helps people cope with many different types of mental health issues. Key DBT skills include learning how to self-soothe, regulate emotions, navigate relationships, and mindfulness.
Dr. Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT, is responsible for revolutionizing treatment for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. The skills she developed are used internationally to help people with anxiety, depression, suicidal behavior, and more. Do you know that she has lived experience with severe mental health issues? She was hospitalized, diagnosed with schizophrenia, then Borderline Personality Disorder, received ECT treatment, and received several types of therapy.
Dr. Linehan’s story is a wonderful example how someone with a lived experience can persevere and contribute to the world in ways that have a resounding and truly transformative impact. Her own distress and her ability to endure it allowed her to find a way of coping that works for so many people. Her story is a living example of making meaning from suffering.
Having guides in the world of mental health who have been through their own struggles is like getting advice from someone who has traveled the hiking route you are on verses just relying on a mapping app. A seasoned trail guide can tell you about treacherous sections, views you should not miss, places to rest, landmarks, and the best times to start a journey.
Another big component of DBT is mindfulness, prayer, and meditation. Dr. Linehan has adapted techniques from Catholic and Buddhist practices. DBT skills do not neglect the transformative power of spiritual experiences.
One of her personal healing moments came while she was praying in a catholic church, she says, “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 … It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remembered talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”
Dr. Linehan is the epitome of a success story; she got better and worked hard to validate the truth of her recovery story through rigorous research. From former patient to pioneering thought leader, Marsha Linehan is a living example of someone who took their suffering, their sorrow, their experience and made it a benefit to the world.