Adult Criminals with Psychopathy

Common Beliefs about Treatability and Change Have Little Empirical Support




Devon L. L. Polaschek

Current Directions in Psychological Science

August 2014





Criminals with psychopathy have historically been thought to be resistant to change and unresponsive to psychological treatment. But despite vast amounts of empirical research on psychopathy, very little of it has investigated treatment or change. In this article, I review a small and recent scientific research literature suggesting that (a) psychopathic characteristics, especially those most related to criminal offending, can change over the life course; (b) although adult criminals with psychopathy are among the hardest to work with in treatment, treatment causes themólike other offendersóto reoffend less; and (c) there is no good evidence that criminals with psychopathy take advantage of treatment services to wreak havoc on therapists or the community. Taken together, these findings suggest that like other high-risk criminals, those with psychopathy can benefit from psychological treatment.








Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee