Motiveless malignity: Problems in the psychotherapy of patients with psychopathic features

Alvarez, Anne (2021) Motiveless malignity: Problems in the psychotherapy of patients with psychopathic features. In: From Trauma to Harming Others: Therapeutic Work with Delinquent, Violent and Sexually Harmful Children and Young People. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 9-21. ISBN 978-0367415570

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This chapter explores the difficult issue of how to understand and meet the very particular nature of the destructiveness of the psychopathic child. Psychoanalysts and psychiatrists have described the lack of conscience in psychopaths, the lack of guilt and remorse for their deeds, their indifference to their victims’ cries for mercy. Hyatt Williams has pointed out that if one worked very carefully with murderers with an adequate theory of splitting, displacement and projection, it was possible to discover that they were not without conscience: they did have a conscience but only in regard to particular split-off objects. Premature interpretations regarding hidden vulnerability or dependence, which the patient has not yet owned, may produce dangerous eruptions, or, at the very least, earn the patient’s appropriate contempt. It is important, instead, to save his dignity and respect his courage in going on in the face of the dead world he inhabits.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Psychotherapy
Criminology > Forensic Psychotherapy
Disabilities & Disorders (mental & physical) > Psychoses
Department/People: Honorary Staff

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