Dialectical Behavior Therapy has helped millions since it was introduced to the mental health community. It’s only been around since the late 1980s, but DBT has already become a staple treatment for many different disorders. DBT is now the go-to psychotherapy treatment for everything from borderline personality disorder to eating disorders.
While DBT treatment has become popular, not many people know much about its creator, Marsha M. Linehan. Here are a few interesting facts about the creator of DBT that you may not know.
You may take comfort in knowing that the creator of DBT had a mental illness as well. Linehan had a schizophrenia diagnosis at a young age and was even in an institution. While there, Marsh Linehan was subjected to seclusion, electroconvulsive therapy, and the medication Thorazine, all common treatments at that time.
However, since then Linehan states that she had a schizophrenia misdiagnosis. And that her actual diagnosis is Borderline Personality Disorder. She hasn’t taken psychotropic medications since leaving the institution at 18. Her early diagnosis and treatments were a driving force behind her becoming the creator of DBT.
Linehan is a long-time Roman Catholic and has credited her religion for helping her through her mental illness. She attended Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit university, where she earned her B.S. in Psychology. Linehan continues to go church, and practices meditation taught by Roman Catholic priests. Her positive experience with meditation is what was influencing her to focus on mindfulness in the creation of DBT.
In 1967, while praying in a small Catholic chapel, Linehan said, “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’s the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. It was a transformation.”
DBT is actually a modified form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Linehan developed DBT based on her psychology education and her own experience with mental illness.
Linehan took notice that patients were “burning out” and had no motivation. She also took note that patients with mental illness, especially suicidal individuals, had an upbringing in profoundly invalidating environments. This led her to focus DBT on creating a therapeutic alliance between the patient and therapist. DBT validates all of a patients’ feelings, while also helping them realize that some feeling and behaviors aren’t beneficial to them, and teaches them better alternatives.