Building a Life Worth Living: A Memoir (Paperback)

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Marsha Linehan tells the story of her journey from suicidal teenager to world-renowned developer of the life-saving behavioral therapy DBT, using her own struggle to develop life skills for others.

“This book is a victory on both sides of the page.”—Gloria Steinem

“Are you one of us?” a patient once asked Marsha Linehan, the world-renowned psychologist who developed Dialectical Behavior Therapy. “Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.” 

Over the years, DBT had saved the lives of countless people fighting depression and suicidal thoughts, but Linehan had never revealed that her pioneering work was inspired by her own desperate struggles as a young woman. Only when she received this question did she finally decide to tell her story.

In this remarkable and inspiring memoir, Linehan describes how, when she was eighteen years old, she began an abrupt downward spiral from popular teenager to suicidal young woman. After several miserable years in a psychiatric institute, Linehan made a vow that if she could get out of emotional hell, she would try to find a way to help others get out of hell too, and to build a life worth living.  She went on to put herself through night school and college, living at a YWCA and often scraping together spare change to buy food. She went on to get her PhD in psychology, specializing in behavior therapy. In the 1980s, she achieved a breakthrough when she developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a therapeutic approach that combines acceptance of the self and ways to change. Linehan included mindfulness as a key component in therapy treatment, along with original and specific life-skill techniques. She says, "You can't think yourself into new ways of acting; you can only act yourself into new ways of thinking."

Throughout her extraordinary scientific career, Marsha Linehan remained a woman of deep spirituality. Her powerful and moving story is one of faith and perseverance. Linehan shows, in Building a Life Worth Living, how the principles of DBT really work—and how, using her life skills and techniques, people can build lives worth living.

About the Author


Marsha M. Linehan, PhD, ABPP, is the developer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy and a professor of psychology, adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and director of the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics at the University of Washington. Her primary research interest is in the development and evaluation of evidence-based treatments for populations with high suicide risk and multiple severe mental disorders. Dr. Linehan’s contributions to suicide research and clinical psychology research have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology from the American Psychological Foundation, the Scientific Research Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Career/Lifetime Achievement award from the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the Grawemeyer Award for Psychology. In 2018, Dr. Linehan was featured in a special issue of Time magazine, “Great Scientists: The Geniuses and Visionaries Who Transformed Our World.”

Praise For…


“Shocking and heart-wrenching on one end, triumphant on the other, and an inspiration of hope all the way through.”Goop

“In Building a Life Worth Living, Marsha Linehan shares her experience of suicidal depression to help others who may be experiencing this themselves or in someone they love. Since using what happens to us to help others is the final stage of healing, this book is a victory on both sides of the page.”—Gloria Steinem, New York Times bestselling author of My Life on the Road

“A brilliant memoir by one of the greatest pioneers in psychotherapy history . . . Marsha Linehan holds absolutely nothing back, making good on the vow she made as a young woman to escape hell and help others do the same. This book—in its fierce honesty and, for the careful reader, its practical advice—will help anyone who has struggled to build a life worth living.”—Angela Duckworth, New York Times bestselling author of Grit

“To read this book is to understand how a life is built. In dark, there is light. Everything in Marsha Linehan’s life and remarkable memoir uncovers the dark—the hell of the unhappy self and the hell of inadequate help—and brings us into the light, with humor and detail in describing her grappling and growth, and her courage and vision of how to create a treatment for even the most unhappy of us.”—Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of White Houses

“Powerful and intimate . . . Linehan ably guides readers along her roller-coaster life as she conquers the male-dominated world of academia while hiding her physical and emotional scars. . . . Readers looking to overcome their past will find inspiration in this dramatic, heartfelt narrative.”Publishers Weekly

“Practical and engaging . . . Linehan leads readers through her life and details how key moments brought her to develop DBT [Dialectical Behavior Therapy], bringing mindfulness into psychotherapy. Weaving the instructive with the personal, she alternates anecdotes with universal tools for approaching life with a combination of acceptance and motivation to change.”Booklist

“Gripping . . . An inspiring account of healing and helping.”Kirkus Reviews


Product Details
ISBN: 9780812984996
ISBN-10: 0812984994
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Publication Date: January 5th, 2021
Pages: 384
Language: English

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