Marsha M. Linehan is an esteemed professor that has made significant contributions to the field of mental health. Marsha Linehan went from being in a mental institute to helping those in need.

Linehan is credited with founding a commonly-used type of talking therapy – named Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). On her way to creating DBT, Linehan had to put up with several challenges and setbacks.

Linehan has spoken openly about the role that religion has played in her life. A religious experience during her formative years appeared to be a turning point for Linehan – who has positively affected the lives of so many.

The Story of Marsha M. Linehan

Linehan was born in 1943 – entering the world amidst the Second World War. After a difficult childhood, Linehan was committed to a Mental Institute at a young age. She was diagnosed with the serious mental disorder Schizophrenia.

Linehan was subjected very difficult experiences while in the mental institute. She has spoken of how she was given Electroconvulsive (Shock) therapy, given strong anti-psychotics, and spent time in solitary confinement.

Upon turning 18, Linehan left the mental institute. She has since stated that she believes she was misdiagnosed. Rather than having Schizophrenia, she believes she was suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder.

After leaving the mental institute, Linehan tried to settle into routine life. Over the next few years, there appeared to be little meaning to her life – surely scarred by the terrible events she had suffered from.

Religious Experience

Linehan’s life transformed in 1967, when at the age of 24, she had a religious experience. Linehan recounted her experience in the New York Times. She states that while praying in a Catholic Chapel in Chicago, Illinois:

“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 was the first time I remembered talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed”.

Marsha M. Linehan

On her religious experience

This incredible experience seemed to galvanise Linehan, who often attributes religion to aiding her recovery from the experiences of her past. Linehan continues to be a devout Roman Catholic.

When a person has gone through difficult and traumatic times in the past, it can be difficult to keep faith in God. But accounts like the above show that God is always on our side, and will repay our faith. Linehan is a prime example of this.


Linehan, buoyed by the experience above, went on to create DBT. DBT is a type of talking therapy that is mainly used to treat people with Borderline Personality Disorder – though it has shown promise in treating Eating Disorders and other types of personality disorders too.

Linehan went on to attend a Jesuit University in Illinois, where she graduated with a BS in Psychology. She went on to study at higher levels and gain further qualifications. She worked for the University of Washington.

Over the next few years, Linehan wrote many books and produced industry-leading research papers. She continued to research Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as suicidal feelings.

DBT is now routinely used in numerous countries – primarily for Borderline Personality Disorder. Linehan used her experiences to craft DBT, with both her and many others reaping the benefits of this.

The Takeaway

Since Linehan founded DBT, millions of people have benefited. In fact, some people have had their lives saved by her intervention. But taking it a step further back – and we can see that this is an example of God working to help us all.

Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom to get back up. When God is by our side, anything can happen. Marsha M. Linehan could easily have given up, but she soldiered on, and went on to make a profound contribution to humanity.