Marsha M. Linehan

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Marsha Linehan
Born Marsha Linehan
(1943-05-05) May 5, 1943 (age 70)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States
Residence University District, Seattle, Washington
Alma mater Loyola University Chicago
Occupation Creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, psychologist, professor, author
Children Geraldine
Marsha Linehan

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 Buddhism 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.[1] Her primary research is in borderline personality disorder, the application of behavioral models to suicidal behaviors, and drug abuse.

Early life and education[edit]

Linehan was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In March 1961 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.[2] She has said that she feels that she actually had borderline personality disorder.[3] In a 2011 interview with the 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.[4]

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, both in clinical psychology. During her time at Loyola University, Linehan served as lecturer for the psychology program.


After leaving Loyola University, Linehan started her predoctoral internship at The Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in Buffalo, New York between 1971-1972. During this time, Linehan served as an adjunct assistant professor at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. From Buffalo, Linehan completed her 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.[1]

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 diplomat 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."[5]

Honors and awards[edit]

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 three 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.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Linehan is unmarried and lives with her adult adopted Peruvian daughter Geraldine "Geri" and her son-in-law Nate in Seattle, Washington[7][8][9]

Linehan is a long-time Buddhist and Zen practitioner.[a][10]

Dr. Linehan is a life long Roman Catholic and continues to practice in her faith. In the video released with the New York Times Article in June, 2011,in which she "comes out" as a person recovered from borderline personality disorder, she speaks about experiencing the love of God in that Chapel experience in Chicago, and as she speaks in the video, we are shown her arm, scarred with the self mutilation of her adolescent years...and a bracelet with a Miraculous Medal, worn almost exclusively by Roman Catholics hanging from the wrist of her wounded arm. She chose Loyola University and then The Catholic University of America as her educational foundations and went on to become a faculty member in both Universities. She is not a Buddist, as stated in this article, but, as it is nearly impossible to find models of meditation current western culture, she sought out Buddist techniques in order to teach such techniques to those desperate for a peaceful place in their lives. Jesus Christ meditated throughout His ministry on earth. It was imperative that this be taught.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to Kabat-Zinn (2005, p. 431): "Marsha [Linehan] herself is a long-time practitioner of Zen, and DBT incorporates the spirit and principles of mindfulness and whatever degree of formal practice is possible."

External links[edit]