Introduction: Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.
At: The Institute of Living,
Date: June 17th 2011
By: Martin Bohus, MD
When Marsha first asked me to
introduce her I thought this is a
joke - why introduce her to this
group of family members, close
friends and companions. Everybody
knows her personally; everybody
admires her and her work… on the
other hand, there are some important
issues in her life most of us do not
know or do only assume.
So you could say private issues are
private and sometimes should remain
private. But Marsha is a special
case. She is not just anybody- she
not only developed a new treatment
for one specific psychiatric
disorder, she developed a new type
of treatment which impacts the
entire field of psychiatry and
And in this role - as a treatment
developer – not only a composer -
you step out of privacy and enter
public space. Like an artist – you
attract attention since you are
somebody who is converting his inner
experiences into a perceivable form.
And since our sources, or point of
views impact the results, from a
scientific perspective it’s a must
to disclose your sources.
This sounds clear- but is more than
complicated. Most human beings
simply are not aware of their
But talking about borderline
experiences with Marsha is sitting
on the floor of her home, early in
the morning or late at night
transgressing the level of an
intellectual debate about
psychopathology. Not always, but in
these precious moments I am grateful
for - these conversations become
some kind of a very personal
experiential search. Trying to
gradually approach the essentials of
borderline experience like these
feelings of chronic abandonment,
being lost, homesick for love, and
hypersensitivity for rejection - the
gaining of insight becomes a process
of hard and craggy self-exploration.
Where does these experiences come
from - how much is biology, or could
they be explained by personal
experiences only? And how to treat
and how to cure - and always- what
does social psychology teach us
about. So in the midst of these
contemplative experiences we jumped
up to do a little internet search on
state of the art on items like
self-contempt, before we get
refocused to biographic experiences.
Marsha sees empirical science always
as a source of help when we dared to
I think this is Marsha. Taking her
experience as a deep source of
knowledge but always questioning
herself – and her ideas by science.
And from these essentials comes the
power and vividness of DBT.
Another essential of DBT is honesty:
honesty towards the clients, honesty
towards the DBT group and honesty
towards the scientific community.
But sometimes – for sake of the
treatment it’s better to wait with
On the other hand:
One of DBT essentials is to teach
the balance between past and
present. Whenever you neglect one
side, this part takes over.
Neglecting the present and putting
too much emphasis on the past
immediately causes you troubles.
Neglecting the past, - it takes a
bit longer to notice the price you
pay for. But you pay.
We meet here today at the Institute
of Living as a biographically
relevant and important site in
Marsha Linehan`s life. Something
becomes full circle. It is an act of
balancing present and past. It took
a long time to make the present so
precious and strong to balance her
past. And I am sure everybody in
this room contributed a bit to make
the present strong enough. So I am
sure you can face her past.
DBT has gone through three major
1. Developed for chronic suicidal
2. Changed to the #1 treatment for
borderline personality disorder
3. Expanded to a treatment for
emotion dysregulation in general
It will be extended to an art of
And, I am sure this talk will be a
milestone on that way.
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