The treatment of psychopathy

Authored by: Devon Polaschek

Routledge International Handbook of Psychopathy and Crime

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138085169
eBook ISBN: 9781315111476
Adobe ISBN:


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The treatment of psychopathy is a controversial issue. Unfortunately, the small volume of research on the treatment of adult offenders with psychopathy is not matched by any research on the treatment of psychopathy generally. Several general statements can be made. There are relatively few treatment programs for higher risk offenders, and psychopathy is often not measured in them. Even fewer of these programs are subject to outcome evaluations, let alone designs in which a comparison group which also has psychopathy scores is included. Rarer still are studies that document treatment change on dynamic risk or psychopathy characteristics over the course of treatment and follow-up. Studies rarely look at outcomes other than recidivism. We have not yet clearly outlined a treatment theory that links symptoms of psychopathy, rehabilitative components, and changes in behavior, meaning there is no consensus on how to measure and document psychopathy change. Theoretically linking pathways from psychopathy characteristics to dynamic risk factors and strategies for ameliorating these factors would be helpful for program development and change measurement. Psychopathy includes components that have a substantial influence on responsivity, but responsivity is the most poorly articulated of the RNR model core principles and few studies address what it is, how it affects engagement and change, and how it can be remediated.

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