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Publisher's Summary

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 18 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.

©2020 Marsha M. Linehan (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"In Building a Life Worth Living, Marsha Linehan shares her experience of suicidal depression to help others who may be experiencing this themselves or someone they love. Since using what happens to us to help others is the final stage of healing, this book is a victory on both sides of the page." (Gloria Steinem, New York Times best-selling author of My Life on the Road)

"A brilliant memoir by one of the greatest pioneers in psychotherapy history. Marsha Linehan holds absolutely nothing back, making good on the vow she made as a young woman to escape hell and help others do the same. This book - with its fierce honesty and, for the careful reader, practical advice - will help anyone who has struggled to build a life worth living." (Angela Duckworth, New York Times best-selling author of Grit)

"To read this book is to understand how a life is built. In dark, there is light. Everything in Marsha Linehan’s life and remarkable memoir uncovers the dark - the hell of the unhappy self and the hell of inadequate help - and brings us into the light, with humor and detail in her grappling and growth, and in her courage and vision of how to create a treatment for even the most unhappy of us." (Amy Bloom, New York Times best-selling author of White Houses)

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What an amazing journey!!

Marsha’s story is so movingly told. So much of what she shared I could relate to on one level or another!!

I came across the skills and principles of DBT quite accidentally five years ago when I was going through an emotionally challenging time. Of course, it had been in reality the story of my life and I felt like I still had no idea how to handle what I was going through. This once again stirred up the all too familiar feeling of I’m damaged and I don’t know how to fix myself. Then I came across DBT and I looked online for everything I could find. I tried to find a therapist who used DBT and I tried to join a group, but I found out that it would be unaffordable for me. I cried because I so wanted to finally move past all the burden of pain I had carried for decades. So my alternative was to read and try to practice the DBT skills I learned about. It was a profound revelation for me to understand that I wasn’t damaged, I just lacked skills and I thought, “Skills I can learn!” With God’s blessing and help I was able to piece together enough understanding and DBT skills to move to a much better place than I had ever been in life!

I wished I had learned these principles years ago. It would have greatly improved my emotional quality of life. I wished I had been able to teach them to my daughters. DBT skills are fundamental life skills! Skills our mother didn’t teach us because she didn’t know/understand them herself!

I am so glad Marsha shared her story. It is a story of hope. It is a story of courage. It is a story that reinforces, for me, that with effort our negative life experiences can be turned into something good even when we think it is impossible! Our lives and life story can bless others.

She really understands. Who could’ve been better prepared to develop the framework of DBT than Marsha Linehan? IMO, no one! If you read her book I believe you will see that like Ruth in the Old Testament, Marsha was prepared for such a time as this. Amazing story, amazing woman!! She has been the angel that moved the waters of emotional healing for so many.

16 people found this helpful

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Marsha Marsha Marsha!

Impactful. Insightful. Powerful. Relatable. Honest.

I enjoyed “reading” Dr. Linehans memoir and very much enjoyed the DBT skills she intertwined into such a personal story. As a clinician that has been to DBT trainings and is a part of a DBT team, this book brought together so many pieces of treatment for me - it helped them to make more sense in practice and application- more so than just a DBT training. Understanding the influence of mindfulness practice in DBT was an understatement until you hear about Dr. Linehans personal experiences of diving into zen practice in her own life. I very much enjoyed the reader and her pace, tone, inflections and even imitations.

Well done! Amen!

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Validated AF! If I can do it, you can too.

My story is so similar to Marsha's (minus developing a life changing therapy lmao). I was the difficult, impossible, hopeless borderline girl that was endlessly fired by therapists and treatment centers. The extreme of the extreme. DBT is partially credited to saving my life, but I give myself the most credit. This book validated that I own my recovery, I put the work in, I GOT MYSELF OUT OF HELL. The best quote of the whole book "if I can do it, you can too". No one is too far gone. No one. But you have to accept you're in hell first before you can get out, and you have to do it yourself by using the tools that your treatment providers give you. You are responsible for saving you. Thank you Marsha. Thank you for being vulnerable and telling your story.

7 people found this helpful

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What a surprise

Way more than I expected. I couldn't have been happier with this book. I started reading for DBT origin info, but gained so much more insight into Linehan's process developing DBT alongside her own personal evolution. Really excellent for anyone working in healthcare, psych, social services, or searching for meaning in life.

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Remarkable story of triumph over mental illness

It is absolutely remarkable to think that someone with debilitating mental illness could go on to become a luminary in the world of psychology and therapy. But as amazed at Marsha Linehan’s achievement of creating DBT after surviving mental illness and institutionalization, I am more amazed by the incredibly relatable details of her life story. I’ve been through DBT treatment myself and I was awed by how her life journey informed the fundamentals of DBT. My copy of this book is filled with my own notes and tabs that help me identify the key moments when Marsha created certain DBT skills. These simple, practicable skills have helped so many people climb out of hell and build a life worth living. Thank you Marsha for everything!

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excellent even for seasoned clinicians

I am super glad that I did a search for biographies and came across this one.. As a clinician who works with lots of young borderline clients i can't recommend it enough.

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really good

I was a bit concerned by the mixed reviews and so hesitant to purchase this book... However, it was a beautiful and I'm grateful Dr. Linehan shared her story and how DBT came to be. Everything about it makes so much more sense now, and her willingness to share her personal history throughout the book was so courageous. Unlike some listeners, I didn't find the journal excerpts to be confusing or disjointed. Rather, they added context and emotional resonance. If you have an interest in DBT or Dr. Marsha Linehan, you will enjoy this book.

Although I would purchase the book again, I did find that the reader's voice grated on me a bit and the pacing was sometimes a bit slow. Minor complaints for an excellent work.

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exceptional book

This book is about the story of Marsha Linehan's descent into hell, extreme negative emotions that make suicide seem like a logical choice in order to get relief. Fortunately, this smart woman had a fighting and ornery nature and promised herself and her God that if she could find a way out of this hell she would dedicate her life to helping others get out too. This was the beginning of the very long road to developing the dialectical behavior therapy that has helped so many. Beautifully written, wonderfully read, extremely personal, very interesting and ultimately one of the most positive things I've ever read or listened to. This book would appeal to those with an interest in psychology or those who have suffered the plague of extreme negative emotions and moods that make one question whether life is worth it. Marsha Linehan makes the compelling argument that the answer is a resounding YES, and that with the right skills and practice that you can find the light and get out of hell. She proved this with her life and struggles and it is a story well worth hearing.

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what a relief

Being able to hear a story that I related to so dearly was a relief.

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  • 03-26-21

Thank you Marsha!

Thanks for your story, your life worth living. Because of DBT, I work everyday to also create a live worth living. Thank you for your persistence and your compassion for anybody who has experienced even a moment of hell. And in my opinion, anyone who has not yet experienced hell. DBT is truly for the masses in all stages of life.

I’m forever and gratefully in your debt.

1 person found this helpful