BUILDING A LIFE WORTH LIVING by Marsha M. Linehan

BUILDING A LIFE WORTH LIVING

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The psychologist who developed dialectical behavior therapy to treat suicidal individuals reflects on her own life in this gripping memoir.

Linehan (DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, 2014, etc.) grew up in a “reasonably well-off” family in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the 1940s and ’50s. A “happy-go-lucky, confident high school girl,” though not a good fit for her more sedate family, she experienced a breakdown during her senior year of high school and was institutionalized for more than two years at the Institute for Living in Hartford, Connecticut. The psychoactive drugs and electroconvulsive therapy she was given, in addition to long periods of solitary confinement, left her with few memories of her childhood and adolescence, which she reconstructs here with the help of others. Linehan went on to study psychology and, later, train as a Zen master and work as a research scientist at the University of Washington. These Western and Eastern strands combined to influence the therapeutic protocol she developed, which has been clinically proven to benefit those affected by borderline personality disorder and suicidal tendencies. DBT, one of the first psychological treatment plans to incorporate the teaching of mindfulness, combines a recognition and deep acceptance of what the patient is feeling with the implementation of a behavioral plan for change. While the technique may not strike readers as revolutionary as Linehan contends it is, the author obviously has deep empathy for those she treats and a willingness to try a range of techniques to help them. Although she has chosen not to write about any of her clients, for the sake of their privacy, her description of her own slow, uneven recovery from what she calls a version of hell is compelling, and it's easy to see how it would translate to other individuals. While she doesn't stress the point, it's also clear that both the spiritual and practical approaches she takes would also benefit those with less extreme psychological challenges.

An inspiring account of healing and helping.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-8129-9461-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2019