Marsha M. Linehan (born May 5, 1943) is an American psychologist and author. She is the creator of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of psychotherapy that combines behavioral science with Zen concepts like acceptance and mindfulness.
Linehan is a Professor of Psychology, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and Director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics. Her primary research is in borderline personality disorder, the application of behavioral models to suicidal behaviors, and drug abuse.
Early life and education
Linehan was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 5, 1943. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut where she was an inpatient. Linehan was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy, seclusion, as well as Thorazine and Librium as treatment. She has said that she feels that she actually had borderline personality disorder. In a 2011 interview with The New York Times, Linehan said that she "does not remember" taking any psychiatric medication after leaving the Institute of Living when she was 18 years old.
Linehan graduated cum laude from Loyola University Chicago in 1968 with a B.S. in psychology. She earned an M.A. in 1970 and a Ph.D. in 1971, Social and experimental personality psychology. During her time at Loyola University, Linehan served as lecturer for the psychology program.
After leaving Loyola University, Linehan started post doctoral internship at The Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in Buffalo, New York between 1971 and 1972. During this time, Linehan served as an adjunct assistant professor at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. From Buffalo, Linehan completed a Post-Doctoral fellowship in Behavior Modification at Stony Brook University. Linehan then returned to her alma mater Loyola University in 1973 and served as an adjunct professor at the university until 1975. During this same time Linehan also served as an assistant professor in Psychology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. from 1973 to 1977.
In 1977, Linehan took a position at the University of Washington as an adjunct assistant professor in the Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences department. Linehan is now a Professor of Psychology and a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington and Director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics.
Linehan is the past-president of the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, a fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychopathological Association and a diplomate of the American Board of Behavioral Psychology.
Linehan developed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) as a result of her own mental illness. In 1967, while she prayed in a small Catholic chapel in Chicago. 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."
Honors and awards
Linehan has earned several awards for her research and clinical work, including the Louis Israel Dublin award for Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Suicide in 1999, The Outstanding Educator Award for Mental Health Education from the New England Educational Institute in 2004, and Career Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association in 2005.
Linehan has authored and co-authored many books, including two treatment manuals: Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder and Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder. She has also published extensively in scientific journals.
Linehan is unmarried and lives with her adult adopted Peruvian daughter Geraldine "Geri" and her son-in-law Nate in Seattle, Washington
Linehan is a long-time Roman Catholic and reports that she is involved in such practices as meditation that she was taught by Roman Catholic priests.