Criminal Minds – How to Treat

Bruce Cameron LPC-S, LSOTP Provides a Thoughful Analysis Criminal Minds



1. Builds himself up by putting others down

2. Feeding others what he thinks they want to hear or what they ought to know

3. Lying

4. Vagueness

5. Attempting to confuse others

6. Minimization

7. Diversion

8. Assent – saying “yes” without meaning it

9. Silence

10. Paying attention only to what suits him

11. Total inattention

12. Accusing others of a misunderstanding

13. Generalizing a point to absurdity

14. Putting off doing something – e.g., “I forgot”

15. Claiming that he has changed because he did it right once

16. Putting others on the defensive: the tactics of attack



1. Do not put a premium on getting the client to “like” you; rather you must try to earn his (her) respect.

2. Do not think that you must manipulate or do things that are contrived to court the client’s favor; for example, use street language, dress a certain way.

3. Avoid the twin pitfalls of gullibility and cynicism.

4. Be alert to problems of semantics; that is, a client may use regular everyday English word and mean something totally different from your interpretation of it.

5. Be prepared to terminate interviews when anger stands in the way of receptivity, disclosure, and a dialogue and most certainly if the client is directing, threatening or intimidating.

6. If you use a confrontive style, be sure to be direct and firm but without being provocative and forcing the client into a corner where an attack is his only way out.

7. Expect to have to repeat the same point in different ways.

8. Do not be totally consumed by whether the client is currently telling the truth; that is, playing “detective” (if overdone) can stand in the way of what you are doing.

9. Take the position in counseling such a client that it is his life, whether he is sincere and truthful will be born out over time.

10. Avoid ridicule, anger or sarcasm.

11. Ask yourself before each interview, “What do I expect to accomplish?” Then ask yourself if this is realistic.

12. You must try to control the interview politely and firmly, rather than utilize a nondirective approach; being nondirective or basically silent is seen as weakness.



None of us changes anything about ourselves unless the following occurs:

1. Dire consequences are about to ensue;

2. Severe consequences have already been experienced;

3. A person has become disgusted with himself (herself);

We do not give up a pattern of behavior that is well-entrenched unless the consequences are unpalatable and we ourselves have come to regard that behavior as a liability, if not disastrous.

Those of us who work with offenders in the process of change rarely encounter them as individuals who are self-motivated. They are not people who are in pain. They are more dissatisfied with their situations than with themselves. Leverage is necessary to motivate these individuals.

There are several sources of such leverage, all having to do with the loss of something that is valued – freedom, a job, money, family support.

Legal leverage is highly desirable. This is not a sufficient condition for change to occur; but initially, it is important. The offender must realize that certain consequences will ensue if he continues to engage in irresponsible behavior. Therefore, it is essential when working with offenders in the community that there be a close working relationship between the counselor and representatives of the criminal justice system (probation, parole, community programs, etc.).

Families must exert leverage as well. It is difficult to help family members understand that it may be in everyone’s best interest to exclude the adult offender from the household so that he will struggle on his own. Education of the family along these lines may be necessary. Otherwise, the offender expects the family to continue rescuing him or otherwise “enabling” him to act as he pleases.

The agent of change’s contacts with others should be disclosed so that there is no appearance of duplicity. The offender needs to know that the change agent will be in contact with the parole or probation officer and the family. The offender must be assured that confidentiality will not be violated, but that it is important to verify progress and to answer questions that others have in dealing with him. If an offender objects, this is a telling sign that he is hiding something or, perhaps, simply is trying to control the agent of change as well as others.



1. Opening the communication channel

A. Full Journal use and truthful reporting

B. Receptivity to counseling

C. Self-criticism within the Journal


2. Elimination of the victim stance

A. No psychological excuses

B. No blame of others


3. Elimination of the “unique #1 or I can’t” attitude

4. Self-generation of responsible initiatives with patience and planning

5. Putting oneself in another’s position

6. Elimination of the ownership attitude

7. Acting and trusting others cautiously

8. Basing interests on positive experience and skills

9. Achieving interdependence with others

10. Elimination of anger

11. Replacing criminal pride with self-respect

12. Sustained disgust with criminality

13. Elimination of fragmented and zero-state thinking

14. Elimination of criminal suggestibility and thinking

15. Changing sexual patterns

A. Sexual activity only from commitment, responsibility, intimacy and continuity

B. Tenderness

16. Replacing super-optimism with reasonable expectations

17. Elimination of criminal tactics, power and control

18. Use of deterrents (particularly D4, the Journal)

19. Responsible money and job performance

20. No deferment of responsible initiatives and obligations




Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.


When a criminal is being interviewed, interrogated, or examined after he has committed a crime, he brings to such a process the experience of a lifetime. As the interviewer evaluates him, he is evaluating the interviewer and, in accord with what he perceives, deploys particular tactics (see separate handout on “tactics”).

It is essential to understand that, in accord with his own assessment of the situation, the criminal will respond in whatever terms will minimize what he considers to be adverse consequences.

When a youngster says, after the fact, that he stole from a store because the store wouldn’t miss it, the store “rips off” the public, no one was hurt, etc., these reasons have nothing to do with motivation for the offense. He did not enter the store with such thoughts. Rather, he wanted to take something, and there was excitement during every phase of the crime – from the moment he thought about it until after he made his getaway. The “reasons why” come later when he is held accountable for what he did.

Interviewers who do not understand the mind of the criminal confuse the true motivation (excitement, a build up, etc.) with after the fact “reasons why” (including psychological excuses) which are used as justifications.



It is necessary to equip the criminal with thinking patterns to combat irresponsible/ criminal thoughts which occur on a daily basis. In the beginning of the change process, he lacks the moral base for ensuring responsible decisions. Therefore, it is necessary to provide “fire extinguishers,” so to speak, to help him quickly deter thought patterns that have prevailed for years.

D-1: Fear of getting caught

This is the most primitive and basic deterrent. Although the criminal has been able to shut off this fear in the past, it remains nevertheless a factor that he is aware of and must bring into play when considering old pattern behavior.

D-2: Reasoning process

The criminal needs to go through all the reasons not to engage in a particular behavior as he contemplates it. Mentally, he should consider all the undesirable consequences that could emanate were he to act irresponsibly.

D-3: “Poison” deterrent

This is a shorthand process for D-2. Instead of cataloguing all possible adverse consequences, the criminal simply tells himself that a certain thought or set of thoughts is “poison.” For example, an alcoholic might not consider every reason not to drink. However, thinking of alcohol as “poison” is a shortcut representing all the adverse consequences that would be inevitable.

D-4: Examination of conscience

A parallel to this is the “moral inventory” of Alcoholics Anonymous. The criminal thinks not about the crime itself, but of the injury that he has already inflicted upon others. An examination of conscience needs to be implemented immediately upon the heels of thinking about irresponsible/ criminal conduct, not just after such behavior has already occurred. This is to be a preventive tool, not just an exercise to be brought in after a crime has been committed.

D-5: Anticipation and pre-emption

The criminal must learn to anticipate situations in which he knows that criminal thinking might occur. For example, if he goes to a certain part of town, he knows the path that his mind has traveled before. If he does not avoid going to that area, he must decide in advance what he will think about enroute to the area, while in the area, and upon leaving the area. In other words, he can and must program his thinking in advance.

The above deterrents should be used in combination. They are not mutually exclusive.