I just read the New York Times article by Marsha Linehan, “Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Fight ” (and watched the video where she describes her deeply personal and transformational religious experience). For several days, this article – where Marsha Linehan of “DBT” fame shares her story – was the #1 most emailed article in the New York Times. Here she describes how she was able to create such a comprehensive treatment used worldwide for people struggling with severe suicidal thoughts/actions. As she says, “So many people have begged me to come forward, and I just thought — well, I have to do this. I owe it to them. I cannot die a coward.” In the accompanying video (The Power of Rescuing Others), she describes a profound religious experience that transformed her to know “I would never again cross that line into being ‘crazy.’

Much in the field of psychotherapy rests on an assumption of “us and them” with an elevation of professional knowledge over all other knowledge(s). In contrast, I often think of a favorite quote by Michael White (1993) captures the spirit of narrative practice:

And what of solidarity: I am thinking of a solidarity that is constructed by therapists who refuse to draw a sharp distinction between their lives and the lives of others, who refuse to marginalize those persons who seek help by therapists who constantly confront the fact that if faced with …the troubles of others, they just might not be doing nearly as well themselves.

Michael White, 1993, The histories of the present; p 132, Stephen Gilligan & Reese Price (editors): Therapeutic conversations. Vol 1; Commentary: NY: Norton.

I value professional knowledge. I’ve had a good reminder spending time over the past few days with my son, Jordan, the emergency medicine doctor. While hanging out together in the kitchen/living room, I listened with him to his audio recordings (broadcast from his Ipad) that review topics like heart attacks, poison, fractures. Surely we want our emergency physicians to have professional knowledge in these and other areas; likewise, the people that come to consult with us want us to be up-to-date in our own professional knowledge…At the same time, we learn invaluably from “experience knowledge” – what others teach us….and at times, like with Marsha Linehan, our own personal experiences.