Helping Client’s to Share Childhood Behaviors Suggestive of Sociopathy

Mar 06, 2017

“Somehow the world is hungry for goodness and recognizes it when it sees it and has an incredible response to the good. There is something in all of us that hungers after the good and true, and when we glimpse it in people, we applaud them for it. We long to be a little like them. Through them, we let the world’s pain into our hearts, and we find compassion. When things go wrong or have been terribly wrong for some time, their inspiration reminds us of the tenderness for life that we can all feel.”

Desmond Tutu

Helping Client’s to Share Childhood Behaviors Suggestive of Sociopathy

TISA Description of the Problem: 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.

Tip provided by:

Terry Willey, MFT

Kern County Mental Health Center
Bakersfield, California

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