Is Effective Treatment of Psychopathy Possible?

What We Know and What We Need to Know
  • Friedrich Lösel


Psychopaths represent a major challenge for the criminal justice system in democratic societies. With such persons, it is particularly difficult to find a balance between the aims of just punishment, the safety of society, and rehabilitation. Whereas the first two aims are widely accepted for offenders with psychopathic personality, there is much skepticism regarding rehabilitation or treatment. Successful therapeutic modification of human behavior requires an emotional bond between the therapist and the client, cooperation, openness, expressiveness, reciprocal affirmation, and an adequate duration of treatment (Orlinsky, Grawe, & Parks, 1994). However, it is exactly these criteria that psychopaths do not fulfill (Cleckley, 1976; Hare, 1993). Their grandiose sense of self-worth and lack of remorse act against any real motivation to change. Pathological lying disrupts honest communications within therapy. Shallow affect as well as callousness and lack of empathy impede serious work on emotions in social.relationships. Glibness and manipulative behavior lead to superficial role play and deception instead of true cooperation. As a consequence, psychosocial interventions are often broken off or have no effect (Blackburn, 1993;Hare, 1995;Lösel, 1998).


Antisocial Behavior Personality Disorder Juvenile Offender Borderline Personality Disorder Therapeutic Community 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Friedrich Lösel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of Erlangen-NurembergGermany

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