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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 Dialect 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 a 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 Dialect 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 a 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

    Jaidee

    3 "liberating, contextual, only partially illuminating" stars !! Most(est) Disappointing Read of 2021 Award Thank you to Netgalley, the author and Random House for an ecopy. I am providing an honest review. This was released in January 2020. I want to start off by not talking about the book. I want to acknowledge Dr. Linehan and her treatment methods. Five Stars ....to Marsha herself for performing opposite action and battling unjustified shame and coming clean with her own experiences of living with 3 "liberating, contextual, only partially illuminating" stars !! Most(est) Disappointing Read of 2021 Award Thank you to Netgalley, the author and Random House for an ecopy. I am providing an honest review. This was released in January 2020. I want to start off by not talking about the book. I want to acknowledge Dr. Linehan and her treatment methods. Five Stars ....to Marsha herself for performing opposite action and battling unjustified shame and coming clean with her own experiences of living with Borderline Personality Disorder (even though this book is highly guarded and only partially complete) ....to Marsha for being a truly excellent teacher and therapist ( I have witnessed her in action doing both) ....for providing therapists an anchor to deal with an extremely challenging and suffering population namely those with Borderline Personality, chronic suicidality and self-harm behaviors ....for being an excellent Stage 1 treament for clients with Historical Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Now to the book: As interesting as I found this book I did not find it well written. I found that much of it was repetitive and her constant pushing of DBT principles distances the reader of who she is as a person rather than her roles as researcher, therapist or Zen master. I also found (quite) surprising the high number of psychological blind spots that she still carries. There is also lots of humblebragging and false modesty here. I also found that she censored a great deal with regards to emotions experienced and relationship issues (were not explored to any great depth.) The book appears hurried and only partially revealing and truthful. Dr. Linehan's life experiences, research achievements and spiritual development are extraordinary. The book itself was not.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    I consider this memoir such a courageous accomplishment from a well-known clinician scientist in the field of Psychology. For those unfamiliar, Marsha Linehan pioneered Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a treatment designed to help those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as well as suicidality, which has been applied to various other mental illnesses like substance use and disordered eating. In Building a Life Worth Living, she shares about her own experience with BPD and suicidality and th I consider this memoir such a courageous accomplishment from a well-known clinician scientist in the field of Psychology. For those unfamiliar, Marsha Linehan pioneered Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a treatment designed to help those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) as well as suicidality, which has been applied to various other mental illnesses like substance use and disordered eating. In Building a Life Worth Living, she shares about her own experience with BPD and suicidality and thus fights the stigma that runs rampant in academic psychology against those with mental health issues. I felt so moved by her spiritual healing process and her dedication to helping others suffering from severe mental illness. I also appreciated her honesty about her academic experiences, such as the bias she faced from psychoanalytic folks as well as the sexism she fought during her journey to develop DBT. Part of me wanted her to take a bit of a stronger anti-stigma stance, though perhaps she already did her part by sharing her experience. I intend the commentary in this paragraph less as a critique of this memoir than as a general statement: you shouldn’t have to be a tenured professor at the end of your career (not to mention that she’s white) to be able to be open about your experiences with mental illness. As someone who’s faced mental health issues and is a scientist and a clinician, I’m thankful to Marsha for her sharing, because she shows that struggling with mental health doesn’t make you unfit for research or practice – rather, it can enhance your empathy and your understanding of what you study, especially if you’re self-aware and work through your issues. I hope that the field practices enhanced compassion and eliminates stigma for those who faced or face mental illness, and not just for successful white scholars either. Back to the memoir, I noticed a strong single-mindedness in relation to DBT which I think may help explain some other reviewers’ more lukewarm feelings. I personally did not mind how much Marsha tied everything back to DBT because I love DBT and find it so helpful both for myself and my clinical work. However, I think other aspects of this memoir could have benefitted from even a bit more development, instead of focusing on DBT so intensely. For example, when she writes about some of her stressors in early childhood, I recognized several gendered components such as desiring thinness and pressure to have a male romantic partner, yet these sociocultural factors did not receive much additional thought or attention. Another example includes when Marsha tells one of her students to not mention their experience with mental illness in an application, which unfortunately makes sense within the stigma-ridden academic system we exist in. However, I wish she had taken a step back and commented on this interaction further. From a behavioral perspective I can see why Marsha dedicates so much to DBT given the immense positive reinforcement she’s received from its development overall, and at the same time I wanted a bit more development from other areas (e.g., social justice issues) as well. Recommended for those who are interested in mental health, emotion regulation/dysregulation, and/or clinical science! For those who are looking for more of a traditional memoir, just come in ready to learn a lot about DBT itself.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Delany

    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 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.

  4. 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 li 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I have tremendous respect for Dr. Linehan and for her contributions to psychiatry and the treatment of BPD, but this book is kind of terrible. Linehan may be brilliant, but she isn't a writer. This "memoir" is, unfortunately, a bit of a hot mess. Random anecdotes often end up straightforward, textbook-explanations of key DBT concepts...like a copy-paste from the DBT skills training manual. I don't know what I was expecting here...it is what it is, I guess. I did walk away with a little more unde I have tremendous respect for Dr. Linehan and for her contributions to psychiatry and the treatment of BPD, but this book is kind of terrible. Linehan may be brilliant, but she isn't a writer. This "memoir" is, unfortunately, a bit of a hot mess. Random anecdotes often end up straightforward, textbook-explanations of key DBT concepts...like a copy-paste from the DBT skills training manual. I don't know what I was expecting here...it is what it is, I guess. I did walk away with a little more understanding of the therapist's perspective and approach to DBT treatment...but this isn't a book I will be recommending to, well, anyone.

  6. 4 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 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. 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??

  7. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    This review contains themes of suicide and suicidal ideation. The treatment designed by the author was created to keep people alive. She succeeded. Marsha (yes, I think everyone calls her by her first name) is such a unique lady. I even know the sound of her voice, and what she looks like. She has fabulous YouTube clips, some small, some large, and I also have seen her in action lecturing and speaking with academics and students online, because, lucky for me, I work in an academic library. She i This review contains themes of suicide and suicidal ideation. The treatment designed by the author was created to keep people alive. She succeeded. Marsha (yes, I think everyone calls her by her first name) is such a unique lady. I even know the sound of her voice, and what she looks like. She has fabulous YouTube clips, some small, some large, and I also have seen her in action lecturing and speaking with academics and students online, because, lucky for me, I work in an academic library. She is a great therapist, listener, mentor, researcher, academic, Ph.D. recipient, and she has lived experience. She is funny, self-deprecating. Even irreverent at times. She vowed to learn about her condition as a teen, and fight to make sure others would not go through her version of ‘hell’. She was institutionalised before her twenties; doctors did not know what to do with her. She was branded as the most untreatable, misunderstood patient ever to be admitted to the Institute of Living, with the hospitalisation not benefiting her at all. Sitting in seclusion at very long stretches, knowing she was not mad. She has brushes with death and reached the annals of despair countless times. Her journey in this book is covered quite thoroughly and her story delivered in conversational tone. It was easy reading, which was helpful given some tough content. Often, she would refer to others experiences to tell parts of the process, such as ‘I will let him explain’, so then, her opinion from others was also there for us to see. Often quirky folk can’t describe themselves, but by the end I got to know her very well. Marcia lived with Borderline Personality disorder, and at the end of her career she addressed an audience of friends, relative, peers and students of her life’s journey and work. She was often advised not to speak of her incarceration, but to come full circle, she attended the institution where she started off her descent into hell to deliver her speech, entitled ‘The personal story of the development of DBT’. This was a culmination of a lifetime of such hard work, knockbacks (so many in the field of psychiatry thought she had nothing to offer in terms of her treatment methods), trial and error and countless clinical trials and studies. She was a visionary and could prove her methods in trials and in face to face settings, having rapid fire and easy answers when questioned on the spot. She would hound academics, heads of department, publications to publish her work. She had to be tireless in this as she was a breakthrough at a time where treatment for these individuals was completely lacking. She also goes into great depth of her Zen story, where she learns one of the most important aspects of her life’s work – Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – which is that of mindfulness. This, she knew, would be questioned by many, and I also had trouble with this as I am not spiritual, but it is proven to work as an important aspect of the therapy. This is the sort of thinking, as said by Nhất Hạnh Thích - To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment. It is used worldwide. I loved that her famous DBT workbook was published the day before her 50th birthday, just as she dreamed. If you’re a tulip, don’t try to be a rose. Go find a tulip garden. ..my clients are tulips, and they’re trying to be roses, it doesn’t work. They drive themselves to crazy tyring, I recognize that some people don’t have the skills to plant the garden they need. But everybody can learn how to garden. I don’t know of any other treatment that is so aligned with the person who developed it as DBT is with me. One of the confronting criteria is that of self-harm and suicide/suicidal ideation in Borderline individuals, and so many people suffer are severely this way inclined. Marsha also lived through this. She not only got through it but learned how to help people in person and over the phone that are in this crisis. She would sit down and listen and remind those most troubled in the world that their life is most certainly, A life worth living. This book is not for everyone. It is an interesting condition and one that clinicians and health care workers certainly struggle to deal with, especially at the human level. There were times she mentioned it best not to disclose that you are a borderline individual (she was given that advice and has given that advice). Marsha advises that DBT practitioners often burn out after a couple of years and will not conduct the therapy for longer than this. The writing at times is meandering, but I liked this, and I knew it suited Marsha down to the ground. How can I even say this? It is because she tells her truth and I understand.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    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

    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 thera 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura Davenport

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

  11. 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!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe Cushman

    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 refle 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

    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 view 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zanne

    I'm was surprised and kind of jarred by the fact that Marsha Linehan uses stigmatizing and outdated language such as "committed," and "completed" suicide in 2020. Mental health advocates for a long time has been advocating for a change to the term "died by suicide" to combat the stigma around suicide and I sort of assumed that Marsha would know this given the population she works with. To have Marsha, a distinguished professional and expert in the field, perpetuating the stigmatizing language is I'm was surprised and kind of jarred by the fact that Marsha Linehan uses stigmatizing and outdated language such as "committed," and "completed" suicide in 2020. Mental health advocates for a long time has been advocating for a change to the term "died by suicide" to combat the stigma around suicide and I sort of assumed that Marsha would know this given the population she works with. To have Marsha, a distinguished professional and expert in the field, perpetuating the stigmatizing language is damaging to the population she wants so passionately to help. It is also disconcerting that there are other therapists who have reviewed the book as great and have not pointed this out as problematic. In short, if you can get over the stigmatizing language the book is okay.

  15. 4 out of 5

    J. B.

    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 un 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.

  16. 5 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. 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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Don

    This memoir will mostly appeal to clinicians and those interested in dialectical behavior therapy, as it's not just the story of Marsha Linehan but also the story of the therapy she created. So if you don't fall under these categories, you might not love this book. I happen to be a therapist, however, and I ate it up. Linehan is a truly heroic figure, someone who encountered enormous obstacles, including her own mental health problems, and yet never gave up and went on to pioneer an unorthodox a This memoir will mostly appeal to clinicians and those interested in dialectical behavior therapy, as it's not just the story of Marsha Linehan but also the story of the therapy she created. So if you don't fall under these categories, you might not love this book. I happen to be a therapist, however, and I ate it up. Linehan is a truly heroic figure, someone who encountered enormous obstacles, including her own mental health problems, and yet never gave up and went on to pioneer an unorthodox and revolutionary treatment for some of therapy's most difficult-to-treat patients.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    I thought that a book by the creator of dialectical behavior therapy would be packed full of insights and information about the therapy and its applications. Instead, Marsha has presented a poorly-written, informationally sparse, commercial for DBT. Every page of this book is a disorganized mess. Most of it is written as an autobiography, telling the story of her recovery. She manages to cram her narration full of incessant plugs for DBT and herself. She has constant quotes and testimonies about I thought that a book by the creator of dialectical behavior therapy would be packed full of insights and information about the therapy and its applications. Instead, Marsha has presented a poorly-written, informationally sparse, commercial for DBT. Every page of this book is a disorganized mess. Most of it is written as an autobiography, telling the story of her recovery. She manages to cram her narration full of incessant plugs for DBT and herself. She has constant quotes and testimonies about how awesome she is. Here is just one of the dozens of affirmations of Marsha's amazing character: Marsha was a very intense person,” Gus said recently, stating the obvious to anyone who has met me. “She was very vocal. Extremely smart, very quick, and not reluctant to give her opinion and to say when things didn’t make sense or weren’t supported by logic or data." So that's great and all, but I'm not looking to hire you. She does the same for DBT and sells it like it's the greatest idea ever conceived. One of the worst themes packed into this mess is her "coming out" about being a troubled child. It's drawn out over the entire length of the book, and she won't stop mentioning things about how many people are going to be in the crowd or other comments on how big a deal this is. Nobody cares, Marsha. This is 2020. Everyone has mental health problems.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Upasna

    Marsha Linehan is a major figure in Psychiatry and an inspiration and this review is in no way a review of her life or her work, DBT. As a memoir, this was often boring to read. Many times I felt like I was reading a self help book. As someone whose outlook on life is completely different, it was a chore for me to read about her spiritual beliefs (Catholicism and Zen). As other reviewers have pointed out, I often lost track of which decade of her life I was reading about. Her single minded focus Marsha Linehan is a major figure in Psychiatry and an inspiration and this review is in no way a review of her life or her work, DBT. As a memoir, this was often boring to read. Many times I felt like I was reading a self help book. As someone whose outlook on life is completely different, it was a chore for me to read about her spiritual beliefs (Catholicism and Zen). As other reviewers have pointed out, I often lost track of which decade of her life I was reading about. Her single minded focus on working with suicide and the fact that she spent so much time in research before dealing with patients was really impressive. When she met with a council to obtain a grant for her therapy for suicidal patients, she was asked whether her therapy was meant for borderline patients. At that time, she had no idea what borderline meant. This was amusing for me as now her name is the first name that comes up when one thinks of treating borderline patients. Another interesting titbit was her meeting Otto Kernberg and her experience in his clinic. This was an interesting look at how DBT came to be and I wished I could have read more about her experiences with patients, however, large parts of the book were too dull for me to read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This woman's treatment saved my life, and now I saw into hers Marsha Linehan is such an amazing person. I had known a little bit of her story before reading this book, like the fact she had been in a psychiatric hospital as a young adult. However, I wasn't prepared to experience as much suffering. Marsha truly "paid her dues" as a person who suffers from mental illness. As I read on about how she came about the skills for DBT, it was so organic to her life, it was poetry. I am a person who suffer This woman's treatment saved my life, and now I saw into hers Marsha Linehan is such an amazing person. I had known a little bit of her story before reading this book, like the fact she had been in a psychiatric hospital as a young adult. However, I wasn't prepared to experience as much suffering. Marsha truly "paid her dues" as a person who suffers from mental illness. As I read on about how she came about the skills for DBT, it was so organic to her life, it was poetry. I am a person who suffers from mental illness. I was on my way to a degree in psychology and then several life stressors uprooted my life. I have gone through DBT, and Marsha has been my hero ever since.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Meagan Houle

    Reading the memoir of the remarkable mind behind dialectical behavioural therapy, one of the most groundbreaking treatment approaches in the history of mental health care, was pretty much as interesting and informative as you might expect. The format is almost entirely chronological, and some of the transitions felt a little choppy for me. It's not always poetic writing, nor was every detail neatly woven with every other. But there was a stark honesty throughout the narrative voice that, combine Reading the memoir of the remarkable mind behind dialectical behavioural therapy, one of the most groundbreaking treatment approaches in the history of mental health care, was pretty much as interesting and informative as you might expect. The format is almost entirely chronological, and some of the transitions felt a little choppy for me. It's not always poetic writing, nor was every detail neatly woven with every other. But there was a stark honesty throughout the narrative voice that, combined with Dr. Linehan's steely intelligence and surprisingly spiritual heart, smoothed out the rough bits and made every page worth my while. If you're not interested in the scholarly progression of psychiatric study, if you're put off by discussions of treating mental illness that involve meditation and God, or if you're looking for a simple, triumphant journey without potholes, give "Building a Life Worth Living" a miss. You'll no doubt find its ambiguity, not to mention the many dead ends and detours, a bit frustrating. But if this description appeals to you, rather than boring or daunting you, I can't encourage you strongly enough to give it a try. It might just change your life.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kim Van orden

    Reading this book was an intense experience for me emotionally and I am still trying to wrap my brain around what it means to me and what I will take away. Marsha Linehan was one of my first heroes during my clinical psychology doctoral program. As a newbie to the field of suicide prevention research and psychotherapy with suicidal patients, discovering DBT was like a kid walking into a candy store. But, then, as with everything in life, it got more complicated—my relationship with DBT in this c Reading this book was an intense experience for me emotionally and I am still trying to wrap my brain around what it means to me and what I will take away. Marsha Linehan was one of my first heroes during my clinical psychology doctoral program. As a newbie to the field of suicide prevention research and psychotherapy with suicidal patients, discovering DBT was like a kid walking into a candy store. But, then, as with everything in life, it got more complicated—my relationship with DBT in this case. Learning and then really practicing DBT no doubt changed me profoundly for the better and I hope has had the same effect on my patients as well. And it hasn’t always been pretty. This is the first time, after reading a memoir, where I had the thought, “you know, I actually wish I didn’t know that.” There were things of deep beauty and excitement in this book and also things that confirmed deep fears and suspicions I had and part of me wishes they were still mysteries. I suppose this book made my already complicated relationship with DBT even more complicated.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan Austin

    I really enjoyed reading about the life of the developer of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. As a DBT group facilitator, I teach much of Marsha's life work. I did an online training course with many videos of Marsha teaching. So it was fascinating for me to learn more about her life and how this therapy came about. She was such a pioneer in so many ways and her determination and courage was inspiring. Some of the relationships she spoke about in the book seemed strange (like saying her psychiatris I really enjoyed reading about the life of the developer of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. As a DBT group facilitator, I teach much of Marsha's life work. I did an online training course with many videos of Marsha teaching. So it was fascinating for me to learn more about her life and how this therapy came about. She was such a pioneer in so many ways and her determination and courage was inspiring. Some of the relationships she spoke about in the book seemed strange (like saying her psychiatrist loved her and had difficulties in his life because of his love for her, and the unusual way she 'adopted' a daughter who still had parents) - this had me thinking about boundaries and the way that people with Borderline Personality Disorder often struggle with them. The way she described the problems and consequences of her mother's parenting style was a good reminder for me not to be too critical or controlling of my own children. I think you would need to have a special interest in suicidality, the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder or DBT to find this book as interesting as I did.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jemma TheTravelingBookLover

    My friend bought this book while on a road trip and we spent some of the drive with her reading out loud to me. By the 5th chapter I was so enthralled with it I had to get my own copy(on audio). Marsha’s life and her childhood which led her through so much adversity and struggle actually inspired her to create a new form of therapy-I admired her determination throughout the book and how she completely turned her life around. This would be 5 stars but I thought towards the end it became a bit ram My friend bought this book while on a road trip and we spent some of the drive with her reading out loud to me. By the 5th chapter I was so enthralled with it I had to get my own copy(on audio). Marsha’s life and her childhood which led her through so much adversity and struggle actually inspired her to create a new form of therapy-I admired her determination throughout the book and how she completely turned her life around. This would be 5 stars but I thought towards the end it became a bit rambly and off topic about her life and work. Super inspiring read I would recommend to anyone.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Wadley

    For any non-fiction lover with varied interests, this is a great book. First of all, a little background. Have you ever heard of Borderline Personality Disorder? Did you know that it affects up to 6% of the US population? Did you know that it is more common than Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder combined. Did you know that according to studies, families of a BP (short for Borderline Personality) experience higher levels of stress than families of a schizophrenic? Here are the 9 basic diagnostic For any non-fiction lover with varied interests, this is a great book. First of all, a little background. Have you ever heard of Borderline Personality Disorder? Did you know that it affects up to 6% of the US population? Did you know that it is more common than Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder combined. Did you know that according to studies, families of a BP (short for Borderline Personality) experience higher levels of stress than families of a schizophrenic? Here are the 9 basic diagnostic traits of a BP (5 or more is diagnosable): -Strong reactions (motivated by fear of abandonment) -Troubled relationships (extremes in behaviors and attitudes) -Poor sense of self -Impulsive/self-destructive in 2 areas (self-harm, eating, substance abuse, promiscuity, finances) -Suicidal tendencies -Moody & irritable (intense, frequent) -Feelings of emptiness -Angry -Detached (persistent feelings) Marsha Linehan is the founder of what is widely thought to be the gold standard treatment for BP's: DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). This therapy is highly effective for suicidal individuals, and has become a treatment standard for many different disorders. It is a 4-pronged treatment that teaches Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Relationship Effectiveness, and Emotional Regulation (couldn't we all use those excellent treatment standards!?). Okay, there's the background info... on to the review and commentary: Marsha Linehan is personally afflicted by BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Reading her life experience helps you understand the turmoil she experienced. Side note, as a family member of a BP, I feel like I can read between the lines and understand the possible trauma of her family members! It would be cool to have a bird's eye view of some of her family interactions, especially those between her and her mother. Because of the extreme sensitivity of BP's, it would be interesting to know the views of her siblings and parents. We must remember in reading this book, that this is her view! I loved so much of what she wrote, and one cannot help but want to love and understand BP's better after reading her experiences. The first thing that impressed me was this: "If you're a tulip, don't try to be a rose. Go find a tulip garden." I think many of us feel bound by culture to be something we are not, and that contributes to lost time trying to be something we are not, as well as to mental illness. Acceptance of who we are, with our strengths, weakness, idiosyncrasies, etc. is crucial to being our best selves. I particularly found her discussion of willingness versus willfulness to be useful. It seems to be universally useful for anyone who would want to live their very best life, and certainly especially for Christians, who are trying to follow in the Savior's footsteps in telling Heavenly Father, "Thy will be done." That being my goal as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I felt a strengthened resolve from Martha's words. This discussion is found on pages 201-202: “Willingness is about opening yourself to what is. It is about becoming one with the universe, participating in it, doing what is needed in the moment. It is doing the dishes when needed, helping someone up who has fallen, letting go of battles you will never win and even some you could win. It is letting go of being right, even when you are right. It is when you do things you might not want to do, but you do them because they are needed. With willingness, you accept with grace what is happening. You could say it is throwing yourself into the will of God, or into acceptance of the causal factors of the universe. It is giving up tantrums. ‘Willingness,’ says Gerald May, ‘is saying yes to the mystery of being alive in each moment,’ The opposite of willingness is willfulness. With willfulness, the focus is on controlling reality, it is “my way of the highway,” it is about being right. It is a battle with reality, and that consumes emotional energy and gets you nowhere. Willfulness is doing the opposite of what is needed.” For me this meant a thoughtful consideration of how I can be more willing to do what is most needed and helpful at each moment, and a renewal of personal goals. I find Marsha's "finding a new self" by the age of 21, to be very hopeful. She felt "as if someone had taken the chains off my arms. As if all my life I have been running into a brick wall, trying to find the gate leading to mental health or, more truly, freedom. All of a sudden, the gate is in front of me." Being hospitalized, or in residential treatment, I believe, motivates this change. Something's got to give... are you going to die or be hospitalized over and over, or are you going to move past this and show everyone that you can do it (of course, it's not quite that simple!). Adolescence is a shaky time for many, but especially for BP's. My conclusion is that many people, like Martha, will find a new self through the natural development of the brain (particularly the prefrontal cortex), that will result in greater maturity, self-management, and new life (or as Martha called it: "finding a new self"). I hope many of our dear, loved BP's will get needed treatment and find a new self. I believe Martha shows us in her personal story, that determination, or willingness is required. But Martha also says, "I have found the gate. I still have a long walk ahead of me." So it is with our beloved BP's. They have a long walk ahead (as do we!). I appreciate her advice (from Willigis, her Zen teacher in Germany) to those who love and associate with BP's: "If you are with someone who is in hell, keep loving them, because in the end it will be transformative. They are like someone walking in a mist. They don't see the mist, and you may not see it, either. They don't see that they are getting wet. But if they have a pail for water, you put it out in the mist. Each moment of love adds to the mist, adds to the water in the pail. By itself, each moment of love may not be enough. But ultimately the pail fills and the person who has been in hell will be able to drink that water of love and be transformed. I know, I have been there. I have drunk from that pail." I appreciated what Martha taught, that was learned from the organization Little Brothers of the Poor who verbalized it in this way: "Flowers before bread." People need the special pleasures in life, in addition to the necessities. "Love, dignity and beauty in life are as essential to life as physical needs." And as an end to this section, a quote by Mother Teresa, certainly a heroine: "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." Another profound quote Martha gives us is that of Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet: "Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness... Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words." This fits in nicely with my philosophy that troubles and trials are part of our lot for our time on earth, and that they fit us for greater service and empathy to our fellow men, because of their effect upon us. Marsha outlines some of the DBT acronyms in her book, and I want to remember them: DEAR MAN (A communication tool to aid to be as effective as possible in achieving a desired objective): -Describe the situation -Express Clearly -Assert wishes -Reinforce -(stay) Mindful -Appear Confident -Negotiate Opposite Action: Do the opposite of your fear (fake it till you make it, act confident even if you don't feel confident). "You can't think yourself into new ways of acting; you can only act yourself into new ways of thinking." I personally think a useful application would be to recognize negative feelings toward people, and then act as if these people had all the best intentions. I have witnessed black and white thinking in BP's that is debilitating and that makes it hard for the BP to function and move forward past bad feelings. And I can use this opposite action to do a better job of working with my BP loved one. Side note, a foundational idea of DBT (which I don't remember being in this book) is the assumption that we are all doing our best (the BP, loved ones of BP, etc.). That can help us move past negative feelings. TIPP (Distress Tolerance Skill, to be used when facing a crisis and/or to reduce emotional arousal) -Temperature manipulations -Intense exercise (about 20 minutes) -Paced breathing (slow, deep breaths, for about 10 minutes) -Paired muscle relaxation I like her quote by Sister Florence, "Silence is the language of God. Listen." This is something I feel is missing from my prayer practice, some silence of thoughts and words at the end, or questions, followed by silence, so that God can communicate with me, and I can feel the answers and impressions He has for me). I aim to make that part of my prayer practice, as well as to try to wait a little longer in silence before reacting or saying something that is not as loving or helpful as I want to be! Half-Smiling and Willing Hands: Half-smiling and willing hands are ways of accepting reality with your body (read the book to get these!). Accept the Unexpected. Martha said, "I used to tell Ed that I wanted my tombstone to read, "She said 'Yes.' " Meaning that I lived my life willingly, doing what God wanted me to do for the betterment of people's lives and the world." Gerald May said, "As long as science is a servant of willfulness it can lead only to the gateway of meaning. To move through this gateway, willfulness must give way to willingness and surrender. Mastery must yield to mystery." What keepers, go ahead, read the book! STOP (Distress Tolerance Skills), Read the book for more details. -Stop the urge to act immediately. -Take a step back and detach from the situation. -Observe, so you can gather information on what is happening. -Proceed mindfully, by evaluating the most effective option to take, given the goals, and finally following that option. Okay, I know this is going on forever... and I'm getting a little tired. Go buy the book already! You can stop reading right now, the rest is just for me... I loved her description of some of Martha's clients, that I would venture to say is a good description of many BP's (if only I had understood 15+ years ago!): "...it was as if they didn't have emotional skin. As if they had suffered from third-degree burns all over their body. Even the lightest touch was excruciatingly painful, and they lived in environments where everyone kept poking at them. They perceived suggestions aimed at change as personal attacks or as further invalidation. It would whip them off the emotional charts." If I could go back, how would I soften the affliction? Where was the $%^& manual!? I so loved the idea that we all have an ache from an unfulfilled longing... we are homesick for God! Side Note: I already knew this as gospel truth. But I love to find gospel truth among real life and secular life. Part of our sadness and inadequacy is that we are not yet home and we long to return home to our Heavenly Parents... but we have to wade through the difficulties of this life, and not give up before our time (I don't judge people that give up, that is God's place, but I know that we need to stay! and we are very loved, and we would be very missed... we are very needed). I teach middle schoolers College and Career Awareness... a small part of that is dealing with stress and suicide stats and coping strategies. I want them all to know that they are important and that I and their families and friends would be devastated if they weren't here. Okay, enough for now. Read the book. : ) I would like to dedicate this review to a couple of amazing people, angels on earth, modern day "Good Samaritans", LC and CC, I will love you forever.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jen Loong

    Disclaimer: this book probably more relevant/enjoyable if you're someone who went through DBT, or has BPD, or studying to become a therapist, or find Marsha's journey personally inspiring for some intimate reasons. Otherwise, this book likely too triggering (frequent mention of suicide), too technical at times reading like a psychology textbook, and perhaps even too dramatic at times. I marvel at Marsha's ability to triumph personal tragedies, to then create the therapy method that cures mental h Disclaimer: this book probably more relevant/enjoyable if you're someone who went through DBT, or has BPD, or studying to become a therapist, or find Marsha's journey personally inspiring for some intimate reasons. Otherwise, this book likely too triggering (frequent mention of suicide), too technical at times reading like a psychology textbook, and perhaps even too dramatic at times. I marvel at Marsha's ability to triumph personal tragedies, to then create the therapy method that cures mental health disability like that she worked through. It brings more context to how DBT was developed as a methodology (12w therapeutic program to help those highly suicidal), and even more respect for all that Marsha has done for this community of mental health patients. What's a bit surprising to see was her relationship with spirituality vs. science as part of her journey to become one of the most important psychologists of our time. Also empowering to read about her commitment to God to live a life of poverty, to go back to hell to help those who endured the fire like she did. Thank you Marsha! Can we pls help you translate your work into Chinese for children of high-stress upbringing?

  27. 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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Abandoned 1/3 of the way through. Passing interest in DBT (and cannot recall where I heard about this book) but it was poorly written, badly edited, and full of things that made me go "hmm" (psychiatrist in love with her at institute, using terms like "committed" suicide, which is an absolute no-no in the world of suicidology, etc.). Abandoned 1/3 of the way through. Passing interest in DBT (and cannot recall where I heard about this book) but it was poorly written, badly edited, and full of things that made me go "hmm" (psychiatrist in love with her at institute, using terms like "committed" suicide, which is an absolute no-no in the world of suicidology, etc.).

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    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. 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.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julene

    Marsha Linehan's memoir Building a Life Worth Living, provides her background as a child who was institutionalized and how she became a psychologist and developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy keeping her own mental health issues secret for four decades. In the process she became tenured at the University of Washington, then decided she needed to study with the best contemplative teachers. She asked for a leave to do this and first went to Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern CA ( Marsha Linehan's memoir Building a Life Worth Living, provides her background as a child who was institutionalized and how she became a psychologist and developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy keeping her own mental health issues secret for four decades. In the process she became tenured at the University of Washington, then decided she needed to study with the best contemplative teachers. She asked for a leave to do this and first went to Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern CA (whose abbess was Roshi Houn—the first woman sanctioned to teach in the West), then she followed that going to a Benedictine monastery in Germany. where she studied with Willigis Jäger. Taking a much longer leave than first expected. In this process, after ten years of study, and without an intended outcome, she became an "unorthodox Zen Master." Unorthodox because she introduced dance into her practice. She uses the song, "Nada Te Turbe," meaning "Let Nothing Disturb You," from a poem by Saint Teresa of Avila. What I love about the book is she lays out the principles of her method and her brazen and what she calls "irreverent" way she has responded to those who believe their views worked. To the psychologist who saw anger behind every client, she said she saw fear. And she was able to persevere and prove her approach worked and to basically stand up to a system that was stuck in inaccurate beliefs about mental illness. What I found it hard to read were her early years of religious devotion. What was admirable is that she gradually moved to a different base (Catholic to Buddhist). But perhaps only someone who has such devotion could have done the transformative work she did that has helped so many. For she knew the pain, she saw through the myopic vision of a whole field of thought. And her work is still spreading, still not known everywhere, good news takes up to forty years to penetrate into common culture. She held her secret that long to do the groundwork to develop an approach and do the scientific research necessary. An important book for anyone in the field of helping others. Marsha cares, she wanted to help people who were suicidal and who were in pain, pain she knew.

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