At THIRA Health, our treatment programs are based in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and aim to provide a comprehensive approach to mental wellness, an approach developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s. As such, it is with great pleasure that we are able to introduce world-renowned DBT expert Dr. Kathryn Korslund as our new Clinical Director.
After receiving her PhD from the Medical College of Pennsylvania at Hahnemann University, Dr. Korslund completed a postdoctoral fellowship under the direction of Dr. Linehan herself in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington (UW). In 2003, Dr. Korslund became a research scientist at UW’s Behavioral Research and Therapy Clinics (BRTC) and worked alongside Dr. Linehan on several NIH-funded research studies centered on further developing and evaluating DBT.
During her 16 years as a researcher and clinician at UW, Dr. Korslund functioned as a critical partner in the development of the BRTC’s DBT Training Program for graduate students and other mental healthcare professionals – a program which was recognized by the NIMH in 2008 as a “Center for Excellence” – and, perhaps most impressively, co-developed the DBT Adherence Coding Scale. In the early days of DBT, Dr. Linehan created a set of metrics by which to assess DBT treatment adherence that worked satisfactorily in her own research setting, but it wasn’t until the development of the DBT Adherence Coding Scale that researchers world-wide had a psychometrically-robust-enough protocol to apply in clinical research. In 2010, Dr. Korslund became the Associate Director of the BRTC and is now the Immediate Past President of the DBT-Linehan Board of Certification.
Beyond her resume, Dr. Korslund’s traits are equally vital to our mission at THIRA: her naturally inviting and warm presence, her dedication to improving the lives of those around her, and her genuine kindness. These traits alone are an asset to the team at THIRA and, most importantly, to each patient who enters our community.
We sat down with our newest team member to find out more about how she became interested in DBT, why she is a firm believer in its power, and why she decided that this was the perfect time for her to join a hands-on treatment center like THIRA Health.
Q: What makes DBT a powerful tool/resource in the realm of mental health?
A: DBT brings the science of behavior change to individuals who are in agony and makes the process of change possible though acceptance and validation. The treatment is comprehensive yet modular, and in this way can be structured to meet the needs of the individual and the practice setting. Because of the science base upon which DBT was built and the continuing research on the effectiveness of DBT for different applications, populations, and treatment settings, the field and consumers can have confidence that the treatment is likely to yield the positive outcomes seen in the research literature. Moreover, the treatment is practical and can be readily implemented by both clinicians and clients alike.
Q: How did your collaboration with Dr. Linehan contribute to the field of DBT?
A: As a research scientist and the Associate Director of her research lab and training clinic, I worked with Dr. Linehan and other noteworthy treatment developers on multiple studies. These studies helped us to learn more about the treatment, how to improve the treatment, and what is important in getting good outcomes for clients. Additionally, we learned how to expand the application of DBT to new populations, and how to train and disseminate the treatment to other providers across the globe. In sum, we have created a community of DBT researchers and treatment providers capable of continuing DBT in the future and this translates to improving the lives of so many.
Q: What led you to focus your work in the area of DBT?
A: Very early on in my graduate school studies I learned about Dr. Marsha Linehan and DBT. Her pioneering work gave hope for individuals previously deemed “the virus of psychiatry” and untreatable. I knew right then and there that I wanted to build my career around DBT research, practice, and training, as I saw DBT as the path out of hell for those suffering and facing the life versus death question.
I have always been committed to the science of effective treatments for those who are in pain and suffering. My professional mission has been to help people find a way to live when misery is so profound that they saw no path out of hell except to die.
Q: Why did you decide to join THIRA?
A: After 16 years of research and scholarly service to Dr. Linehan and the University of Washington I was ready to step away from academia and devote myself to building DBT programming locally. Outpatient DBT is increasingly available in the greater Seattle community, but what is missing is programming like what THIRA has developed: partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment. These programs offer a higher level of care than standard outpatient DBT without transferring the patient to inpatient hospital care or to residential settings. THIRA’s programs help bridge the gap in DBT services: step-down care from inpatient hospitalization or residential treatment and intensive short-term outpatient care while individuals await openings for a DBT provider in the community. After years of helping providers build programs in their communities, the opportunity to contribute to the development of this specialty application of DBT in my home community was very exciting to me.
Q: How will your previous contributions to mental healthcare translate to the mission at THIRA?
A: My career has been built on the development, research, and dissemination of DBT with an overarching goal of improving the lives of those who are suffering. Along the way I have served in a variety of leadership roles to help overcome the challenge of bringing effective and compassionate evidence-based care to those who need it most. I look forward to lending my experiences to the patients, staff, and leadership at THIRA.