The Power of Understanding Suffering
“So many people have begged me to come forward,” says mental health therapist Marsha M. Linehan of the University of Washington. “I owe it to them.”
With that thought, Dr. Linehan, whose mental illness as young woman merited her the distinction of “one of the most disturbed patients in the hospital”, publically told her story at the Institute of Living.
“I was in hell,” she said. “And I made a vow: when I get out, I’m going to come back and get others out of here.”
Despite rocky stays in the local psychiatric clinic in her youth, Dr. Linehan earned a Ph.D. in psychology in 1971 and immediately began working in a suicide clinic in Buffalo. She chose to focus on people with borderline personality disorder, incidentally the same diagnosis she would have given her younger self. Her approach to treatment would come to be called dialectical behavior therapy, or D.B.T., which includes focusing on day-to-day skills for coping with intense, destructive emotional outbursts. Today, D.B.T. is widely used for difficult mental illnesses, including eating disorders and drug addictions.
Despite the stigma of mental illness, Dr. Linehan chose to share her past in order to give her patients one of the most valuable of motivators: hope.
“I decided to get supersuicidal people, the very worst cases, because I figured these are the most miserable people in the world — they think they’re evil, that they’re bad, bad, bad — and I understood that they weren’t,” she says. “I understood their suffering because I’d been there, in hell, with no idea how to get out.”
Learn more about Dr. Linehan via her profile story on the New York Times.
Pasadena Villa is a mental health treatment facility that offers adult residential and transitional living services to individuals with bipolar syndrome, dual diagnosis, and other challenging mental illnesses. Our mental health programs strongly feature the Social Integration Model, which immerses clients into real life activities within the community. We also offer medication management and traditional and group therapies. Please call 877.845.5235 or contact us online to speak to someone today.
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