Treating the untreatable: A single case study of a psychopathic inpatient treated with Schema Therapy

Farid Chakhssi*, Truus Kersten, Corine de Ruiter, David P. Bernstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

From its first conceptualization in modern psychiatry, psychopathy has been considered difficult if not impossible to treat. Schema Therapy (ST) is a psychotherapeutic approach that has shown efficacy in patients with borderline personality disorder. ST has recently been adapted for personality disordered forensic patients, including patients with high levels of psychopathy. The present case study examined the process of individual ST, combined with movement therapy and milieu therapy by the nursing staff, with a forensic inpatient with psychopathic features (Psychopathy Checklist-Revised total score = 28.4). The patient had been sentenced to a mandatory treatment order in relation to a sexual assault. We assessed change using independent assessments of psychopathic traits, cognitive schemas, and risk-related behaviors over the 4-year treatment period and a 3-year follow-up. We also assessed the quality of the working alliance. Reliable change analyses showed significant improvements in psychopathic traits, cognitive schemas, and risk-related outcomes. At 3 years posttreatment, the patient was living independently outside of the forensic institution without judicial supervision and he had not reoffended. While many questions remain about the effectiveness of psychotherapeutic treatment for psychopathic patients, our study challenges the view that they are untreatable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-461
Number of pages15
JournalPsychotherapy
Volume51
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Case study
  • Forensic treatment
  • Psychopathy
  • Schema therapy
  • Sex offender

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