Helping Clients Share Childhood Behaviors Suggestive of Sociopathy

Mar 07, 2017

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public
and have no self.”

Cyril Connolly

Helping Clients Share Childhood Behaviors Suggestive of Sociopathy

TISA Description of the Problem: As we continue moving through the year 2008, we have a very special series of “Tips of the Month.” In 2007 our TISA website was honored by having the following article, “My Favorite Tips from the Interviewing Tip of the Month Archive” published in the Psychiatric Clinics of North America (Shea, SC: Psychiatric Clinics of North America, June 2007,Vol 30:#2, 219-225). The tips in this article all appeared on this website. During the first eight months of 2008 they will now be re-posted with some additional comments – exactly as they appeared in the journal. Congratulations to all of the contributors whose tips were chosen as the very best! Let us now look at our fourth tip from the article.
Uncovering antisocial or sociopathic behaviors can be difficult, for one must strive to collect valid data about shame producing behaviors while attempting to maintain a strong alliance. One of the spots that can be difficult is inquiring about antisocial childhood behaviors such as fire-setting or animal abuse. The following tip by Terry Willey, MFT provides a simple yet effective way of raising a difficult subject without immediately alienating the client.

Tip: “When kids are young, sometimes they don’t understand their actions and may have hurt an animal while playing with it or being rough with it. Have you ever done something like that, even by accident?”

TISA Follow-up: I like this tip because it raises the potential abuse of an animal in such a way that the client can hint or talk about the incident without an immediately powerful shame producing admission. Once the topic is broached, the clinician can use skillful questioning to uncover the extent of the abuse and the presence of sadistic pleasure or other evidence of cruelty.
Other antisocial childhood behaviors can be raised in a similar fashion such as, “Little kids are often fascinated by fire and don’t really understand its potential dangers. Because of this fact, they sometimes play with fire, or accidentally start fires; Did this ever happen to you?”

Tip provided by:

Terry Willey, MFT

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