by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
A few months ago I wrote about Marsha Linehan and Dialectical Behavior Therapy here on this blog. It is a creative and empirically-supported treatment that combines cognitive and behavior therapy as well as wisdom from philosophical and religious traditions. Last week, at the 120th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association in Orlando, Florida, Linehan was awarded the Gold Medal for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology. I have quoted the actual citation as well as some further background information here.
The July-August edition of the American Psychologist provides further information. In graduate school at Loyola University of Chicago, she majored in social and then experimental psychology. Her initial desire was to become a psychiatrist, but she decided upon psychology because she believed it would give her better scientific training. She then completed a one-year internship at the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Clinic in Buffalo, New York, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in behavior modification at the State University at Stony Brook. She started her academic career at the Catholic University of America and conducted her first clinical trials on targeting suicidal behavior.
In 1977, Linehan moved to the University of Washington, where she now is professor of psychology and professor of psychiatry and social sciences, and also directs the Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics–these develop and evaluate new treatments for severely disordered and suicidal populations. She researches suicidal behaviors, drug abuse, and borderline personality disorder, with a special interest in encouraging clinical psychologists to use scientific methods.
Linehan is the developer of DBT, which demonstrates effectiveness in reducing suicidal behaviors and is cost effective when compared to other treatments considered standard and delivered by expert therapists. DBT when used in outpatient treatment has been shown to reduce the cost of psychiatric hospitalizations. The development of her work has led to the creation at the University of Washington of the High Risk, Complex, and Severe Disorders clinician-scientist track within the clinical psychology graduate program.
As founder of the Linehan Institute, Linehan conducts contemplative and Zen mindfulness workshops for caregivers. Her training in spiritual direction was by Gerald May and Tilden Edwards at the Salem Institute in Washington, D.C, and in Zen under Fr. Willigs Jager Roshi and Fr. Pat Hawk Roshi. With this interdisciplinary training, she has been able to create and expert meld between spirituality and psychology.