Psychotherapeutic approaches to aggressive and violent patients

J. E. Alpert, M. K. Spillmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Behavioral and cognitive-behavioral strategies and a broad range of group, family, couples, and milieu treatment approaches have been developed for the psychotherapy of aggressive and violent patients. These methods have been carried out in diverse settings ranging from hospitals and prisons to individual outpatient practices and have been applied across diverse populations including adults with mental retardation, dementia, and brain injury; children with attention deficit and conduct disorders and autism; recurrent violent offenders with antisocial personality disorder; and individuals with chronic psychotic disorders, mood disorders, or medical illnesses such as hypertension. Bridging these different strategies are the underlying principles of psychotherapy with aggressive and violent patients. These include ensuring the safety of clinician, patient, and potential victims as the foremost concern; developing a finely detailed assessment of aggressive and violent acts and of the antecedents, assumptions, and consequences that are attached to them; formulating well-defined goals and striving for clear communication to achieve consistency in the pursuit of these goals between therapist and patient, and among therapist and other clinicians, staff, and relevant family members or agencies; specifying ahead of time well-considered outcome measures to be used to gauge the effectiveness of treatment; and maintaining a healthy vigilance for countertransferential and similar reactions and a willingness to use consultation as an integral part of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-472
Number of pages20
JournalPsychiatric Clinics of North America
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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