Frequently Asked Questions About Marsha Linehan And DBT

Refugees go through tough situations. Aside from the actual migration, they have to face challenging pre-migration conditions. Most have to deal with separation from their families, poor housing, or even wars. Due to these, refugees need special attention. They must receive the proper treatment to help them recover from the traumatic events they had to endure as much as possible.


Luckily, Marsha Linehan came to create Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). At the age of 17, Marsha Linehan was experiencing a difficult time with her mental health. She was inaccurately diagnosed with different disorders. Because of that, Marsha then got worse. 

One night, when she was kneeling to pray, Marsha felt this rush in her as she looked up at the cross. She went back to her room and whispered, “I love myself.” She indeed adored herself. But it was the first time when she had truly felt it. She felt so proud. At this same time, she realized the vital role that acceptance plays in the healing journey. Then she discovered Dialectical Behavior Therapy. 

From then on, Marsha continued to help better the human mind by sharing this knowledge of hers. Currently, she is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington and is Director Emeritus of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics. Marsha has also spent her time researching and developing new treatments for severe disorders. 

Furthermore, Dr. Linehan created The Linehan Institute to educate and research DBT, Behavioral Tech, giving DBT and Behavioral Tech Research training. 

Marsha Linehan received several awards, including the Lifetime Achievement award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies in 2016. The American Association of Suicidology also created the Marsha Linehan Award for Outstanding Research in the Treatment of Suicidal Behavior. 

If you want to know more about her, here are some FAQs. 

Did Marsha Linehan have BPD?

Dr. Marsha Linehan, who developed dialectical behavior therapy (DNT), has previously had a borderline personality disorder (BPD).

At 17, she stayed in a seclusion room in a clinic because she tended to cut and hurt herself. As BPD wasn’t discovered yet at that time, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. The treatment she received was a heavy Thorazine and Librium medication and undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which wasn’t successful.

What are the six main points of dialectical behavior therapy?

The six main points of DBT distinguish periods in the therapy sessions where change will occur. It involves pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and the last is achieving mindfulness.

It starts with the patient’s unawareness, followed by the realization in the contemplation period. What follows after these two points are the therapy procedures that will cause a change in the patient’s condition. Upon processing and accepting these changes, the final point is achieving mindfulness.

What is DBT therapy good for?

DBT was initially a therapy intended to treat BPD. However, over the years, it has also been found effective for treating other mental health conditions. It includes conditions such as depression, anxiety, trauma, eating disorders, substance abuse, etc. DBT works for these conditions as the procedure helps people regulate emotions and become mindful of their thoughts and actions.

Do borderlines have empathy?

Research has shown that borderlines have reduced brain activity in regions that support empathy. The reduced brain activity in the brain of a person with BPD affects their comprehension of other people’s feelings. This brain activity may be why people with BPD often have unstable moods and have trouble maintaining their relationships.


What triggers a person with a borderline personality disorder?

The triggers of BPD often vary from patient to patient. However, there are types of triggers prevalent in the condition that may intensify their symptoms.

One of the most common BPD triggers is relationship-related triggers. Since people with BPD are more sensitive in nature, they experience intense anger and fear when abandoned. The feeling of neglect from a relationship may lead to impulsive actions, such as self-harm and thoughts of suicide.

Is BPD a brain disease?

Researchers still haven’t found a definite cause of BPD. However, it has often been linked to a history of abuse and neglect, genetics, or brain abnormalities. There is substantial evidence that BPD patients can pass on the condition. Research findings suggest that the brain abnormalities involved in BPD are a gene consequence in the brain’s development.

How is DBT different from CBT?

DBT is a specific type of CBT. Hence, DBT stems from the foundations of CBT but focuses on regulating harmful and destructive behaviors. It doesn’t only work to recognize problematic thoughts but also on accepting and managing emotions. The desired result of DBT sessions is mindfulness.

What was Dr. Linehan’s approach to developing DBT?

Dr. Linehan developed DBT as a variation of traditional CBT with a combination of acceptance and mindfulness. It integrates contradictory philosophies that allow a patient to come to terms with change and acceptance. Dr. Linehan developed DBT as a result of her condition.

What does it mean to think dialectically?

The word “dialectical” refers to the balance between contradictory views or points. Its central premise is that these opposing views can coexist rather than being categorized as one or the other. Hence, thinking dialectically means having no one absolute idea. When incorporated in DBT, it allows patients to understand and apply change and acceptance in their life.

How long does DBT therapy take to work?

The duration of DBT varies for different patients. However, it generally takes around six months for most patients to finish. It involves completing the four DBT modules, which are: emotional regulation, distress tolerance, core mindfulness, and finally, interpersonal effectiveness.

Is DBT effective for depression?

Since DBT incorporates comprehensive therapy elements, research has found that it can be effective for treating depression. Its cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness, and acceptance-based therapy approach is successful for addressing common symptoms of depression. In this process, patients can practice acceptance and management of emotions to develop efficient coping skills.

Is DBT good for trauma?

Most traumatic experiences show up later in life as unwanted emotions. DBT’s approach can help address trauma with its emotional regulation techniques and mindfulness strategies. This way, it helps people with trauma work towards acceptance and developing coping skills in facing their trauma.

Does DBT therapy really work?

Studies have found that the DBT procedure is successful for individuals of diverse demographics and backgrounds. However, for the best results, the patient themselves must be willing to undergo recovery. Like other therapy methods, the effectiveness of DBT may vary depending on different patients’ circumstances.

What can I expect from DBT therapy?

During DBT, you can expect to undergo the therapy’s main components: group skills training, individual therapy, and phone coaching. It involves learning behavioral skills, applying them in real-life events, and getting adequate support to boost motivation.

How effective is DBT for a borderline personality disorder?

DBT has been developed specifically for treating BPD, targeting three behavior categories of the condition that may hinder recovery. It includes life-threatening behaviors, therapy-interfering behaviors, and quality-of-life-interfering behavior. Hence, it addresses the present challenges and harmful behaviors that the patient is facing and their recovery behaviors.


Marsha Linehan has struggled so much during her teen years. She had to put through different kinds of pain because of the misdiagnosis of her mental health condition. Fortunately, Marsha has figured a way to fix the problem. In return, she has not only helped herself but many other individuals as well. She paved the way to learn more about the illness. But more importantly, Marsha led the way to discover a useful treatment, which is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Dr. Linehan’s DBT aims to bring peace to others by reflection onto self. It is a mix of different strategies that include acceptance, emotion regulation, and mindfulness. The goal of DBT is to teach how to savor at the moment, control emotions, build good relationships with others, and develop healthy coping mechanisms. It is initially for those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). But over the years, studies show that it can help with other mental health conditions too. 

The effectiveness of DBT has been proven through years of research and study. However, this therapy cannot fully succeed without the full cooperation of the patient. The desire to change should start from within. The only way to achieve mindfulness is by acknowledging that there is something that needs to change. 

In the case of Dr. Linehan, after admitting that she loved herself, she started to begin to change. She put it in the conscious effort and focused on finding a way to keep that positive mindset. Lo behold, she did it. And because of that, she developed DBT.

Currently, DBT is an effective treatment for different conditions such as anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. These are common conditions among refugees, which means that too they can benefit from DBT.

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