Protect Yourself Against Psychopaths: A Unique Coaching Service

I recently had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Louise Delahunty, PG DipCOT, founder of Psychopathy Awareness and Harm Reduction Coaching (PAHRC).  Louise is a mental health occupational therapist, coach and acupuncturist by background, trained under psychopathologist Sandra Brown M.A. in coaching survivors of psychopaths.


PAHRC works to raise awareness of the impact of partial/full blown psychopaths in the personal/ business realms in order to avert ‘inevitable harm’ or support you work through the aftermath.

What Was the Impetus For Your Business?

I think in many ways psychopathy is a subject that chooses you.

My first professional experience with a client I suspect was psychopathic was with ‘X’ who regularly featured in the local press as a WW2 hero and would actively seek this attention. Receptionists at my workplace would constantly remark how ‘lucky’ I was to be assigned this seemingly affable charmer who’d shower them with chocolates and compliments.

Yet I knew a different side to X. A lifelong gangster who at nearly 80 would charge into local pubs and attack people with his walking stick! Someone who would repeatedly say he wished the Germans had won the war (whilst courting the press, let’s remember, with an opposing persona). The last I heard of him was that he’d been arrested for an attempted rape in a residential home.

As with most mental health professionals I had had no training in detecting the signs of psychopathy…and spent hours pouring over what seemed unfathomable psychology to me. ‘How could X be so lethal, yet so adored? Who was he really?…Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?’

Once the penny dropped that I’d encountered a probable psychopath I began to question why the vast majority of us are in the dark about psychopathy – something that affects us all in one way or another. It was as if a handful of researchers and forensics professionals had exclusive rights to discuss the subject and I grew increasingly uncomfortable that such important information was in so few hands.

But it was the impact of psychopathy on other people that really gripped me. I found I couldn’t let go of it and began to research it prolifically. I took courses in the states and met and communicated with 100’s of survivors from India to America. Their stories were strikingly similar – whether they’d been involved in a cult or loved a fraudulent person. Learning about psychopathy in the hardest way possible forces a ‘paradigm shift’ in someone – the world is not how they thought it was and never quite will be again. Survivor’s stories are appallingbut their strength is phenomenal.

Who Primarily Uses Your Services?

This will surprise people, but primarily Mental Health Professionals (MHP’s) who have been victimized by psychopaths who may also be Mental Health Professionals! They are eager to avoid a re-run or to help others who’ve had this experience.

There are many erroneous assumptions that MHP’s should ‘know better’ ‘be able to spot psychopaths’ or ‘would never be psychopathic.’ It doesn’t work like that. I’ve spoken with leading experts in the field who’ve been victimised.

For me, this speaks of the power of this type of psychopathology and the capacity of people with marked psychopathic traits to manipulate and deceive. So I’d really urge people not to assume they are ‘immune.’ There’s not a psychopath ‘behind every tree,’ but they exist in every walk of life, more often than people think.

Is Your Business Similar to What Threat or Risk Assessment Professionals Do (i.e. highlight some of the potential problem people at an organization?)

In terms of our corporate coaching, our current focus is on advising on recruitment practices to minimise the risk of a business hiring their organizational downfall – prevention is far better than cure. It is also important for organisations to be aware of control tactics exhibited by those with psychopathic traits in order to understand what is going on and plan how to deal with it more effectively.

We are currently in discussion about working with a psychologist trained to screen organisations.

If Someone Believes That They Are Working With a Psychopath, How Do You Instruct Them To Protect Themselves?

Firstly most difficult and unreasonable people are not psychopaths (for the record nor are most criminals or psychiatric patients). Psychopaths are in a league of their own and I suspect most of them would agree with me on that. I once heard psychopaths described as ‘serial soul killers’ and think this is really what we are talking about, someone who effectively ‘wipes people out’ to inflate themselves across different contexts and across their life span.

Research the subject selectively – start with Babiak and Hare’s ‘Snakes in Suits’, and the documentary ‘I am Fishead’

A psychopath’s optimal exploitation of people and organisations relies on others not seeing behind the mask, particularly those with the influence or power to do anything about it. Realising you may be dealing with a psychopath can be liberating (‘that explains it!’) and lonely at the same. Recognise those around you may stay dazzled by the psychopaths fraudulent charms. Confide only in colleagues with whom you have a long established, trusting relationship, or with people outside. Emotional support is vital – the impact is often severe.

Don’t let the psychopath know you’ve ‘seen’ them (they will see this as a threat or challenge which can activate their vengefulness). Stick to neutral conversations where possible and avoid getting defensive. Agree when you authentically can, leave a paper trail of everything and start looking for your next job unless you are very confident you can oust them (without using the ‘p’ word!) and have a lot of support. Change your passwords regularly and don’t leave your mobile lying about.

Has Anything Surprised You About Your Work Thus Far?

The surprises that fade least are these:

  •  Up to 1 in 25 lack conscience – a critical component of what, for most of us, it means to be human.
  • That most people have encountered/will encounter a full/partial psychopath yet few will realise what has happened and that it wasn’t their fault. This often reminds me of a Steve Biko quote: “The greatest tool in the hands of the oppressor… is the mind of the oppressed.”
  • That so few people can admit they were wrong about someone (this is a different thing from not realising it I think).

PAHRC’s next scheduled course ‘How Psychopaths Harm’ runs in London, July 21st. Visit to find out more.

There is a real need for this service. I would encourage you to check out PAHRC.

Have you been harmed by a psychopath?

John Lennon’s Killer Up For Parole, Details From the Hearing

For the seventh time, Mark David Chapman was up for parole in the killing of John Lennon. Recently, the State of New York released a transcript from his parole hearing in August 2012. 

Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon in 1980. 

Below are a few highlights from the hearing taken verbatim from the transcript. 

Q. : Do you want to say anything about the instant offense. sir? 

A.: It was a very selfish act and I deeply regret it. I’m sorry for my crime. 

Q…:Why did you target this victim? 

A.: Because he was very famous. 

Q.: All right, So, you knowingly wanted to inflict death to this victim, John Lennon, correct? 

A.: Yes. Absolutely. 

Q.: And even after that [earlier] encounter [with John Lennon], you still waited for him to cause his death? 

A.: Yes. There was an inner struggle for a while there, you know, what am I doing here, leave now. It wasn’t all totally cold-blooded, but most it was. I did try to tell myself to leave. I’ve got the album, take it home, show my wife, everything will be fine. But I was so compelled to commit that murder that nothing would’ve dragged me away from the building. 

Q.: … And the paperback book you had, “The Catcher in the Rye.” Was there any significance to why you had that[?]

A.: At the time, there was a great significance. I identified with the book. I identified with the character, who seemed to be lost and troubled. And in my state of mind at the time, I felt of kind I had was him [sic]. And so, the book was like saying, this is me and I wanted people to read it and it was a confusing time for me. 

Q.: You said that you did this for the attention and notoriety? 

A.: Yes ma’am.

Q. : And how do you feel about it today?

A,: Absolutely not worth it. Absolutely ridiculously selfish act to take another human life so that I could be pumped up into, you know something that I wasn’t to begin with. I deeply regret it.

Q:… How do you feel about yourself now?

A: Because of my years, I was thinking about this and my age, it’s 57, I’ve come to the conclusion what happened was a very horrible thing. It did not need to be done. It was done for extremely selfish reasons that I regret to this day. I personally can’t think of anything more selfish to do, to take somebody’s life for your own aggrandizement and there were a lot of people in pain then and people that were still want to know what happened now. 

Q: People are still in pain, right? 

A. There [sic] still in pain, sir. I get letters all the time. 

Q.: Are you still in pain? 

A.: That’s a great question, sir. I wouldn’t say as much pain. I would say that the pain I have now is trying to stay as close as I can to what I think is right and that is to stay as close as I can to God. 

Q.: … Who else did you consider [killing]? 

A.: Johnny Carson, … George C. Scott. 

Q.: Did you share this plan with anyone, this cold, calculated plan?

A.: …[My wife]. And she said Mark, don’t, right away. And I flew home and met her at the door of our apartment and hugged and cried and it was over at that point. I was fine. In the weeks later, the compulsion started to build again. I felt like a piece of me had become empty again and the compulsion built again. 

Q.: … If you were to be released, what happens if you drift off again?

A.:… If released, I probably stay right where I’m at. You know, once you stand on a rock for 20 years and feel the waves on you and you don’t go anywhere because you’re on a rock, you don’t want to move. I’ve had a lot of waves coming through my life and I know how to handle it now.


Mark David Chapman was ultimately denied parole. The parole board stated that:

“…if released at this time, there is a reasonable probability that you would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law and your release at this time is incompatible with the welfare and safety of the community…. Your action [the murder of an international music star] demonstrates a callous disregard for the sanctity of human life.” 

I highlighted many parts of the transcript of the August 2012 parole board interview with John Lennon’s killer. It is interesting to read about how big of a role the book “The Catcher in the Rye” played in the life of Mark David Chapman. You can read the entire 39 page interview here

What Do We Know About Female Serial Murderers?

There has been little in-depth research about female serial murderers, perhaps because compared to males, there are relatively few. It has been estimated that 83% of serial killers are male (90% of murderers are male).

This article highlights some of what is known about female serial murderers and it is based on the research of Elizabeth Gurian, who studied two separate groups of female serial offenders: 30 cases of serial male and female partnerships (partnership refers to a partnership or relationship of male and female offenders in a group of two or more) and 35 cases of individual/solo female serial offenders. Gurian’s research included offenders from countries all over the world, though the majority were in the United States, mainly from California, Texas and Florida.

Aileen Wuornos (1990) was the first American female serial killer, as labeled by the FBI, though some argue that there have been others prior to Wuornos. Solo female serial killers have historically tended to target family members for the purpose of profit. Many used poison as their primary method of murder.

Below are the main results of Gurian’s study:

In summary, mixed-sex partnered groups were more likely to target adult or teen strangers. They used a combination of methods to kill their victims and were driven by pleasure-oriented motives. Solo murderers were more to likely target family members than partnered groups, tended to use singular methods of murder and were driven by purpose-oriented motives (i.e. money). When solo murderers did kill strangers, their victims tended to be weak and helpless and included hospital patients, the elderly or infants.

Source: Gurian, E. A. (2011). Female serial murderers: Directions for future research on a hidden population. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 55 (1), 27-42.

The Rush to Diagnose The Colorado Shooter

Dave Cullen, author of the New York Times bestseller Columbine was part of a roundtable discussion this morning on MSNBC with Chris Hayes. The topic was the media coverage of the latest mass shooting. When conducting research for his book, Cullen reviewed the early news reports regarding the “facts” about the two shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In the several days after the shooting, the media interviewed many acquaintances of the two boys. What Cullen ultimately realized was that those early “facts” about Eric and Dylan, (proffered mainly by acquaintances) what essentially became the media narrative, were untrue. Despite that media narrative being untrue, many people still continue to believe those “facts.”

The same thing could easily happen in this case.

Another interesting element of the Columbine shooting media aftermath, mentioned by Cullen, was the leading questions asked by reporters to the acquaintances being interviewed about Eric and Dylan. Those leading questions included (paraphrasing): “we heard Eric and Dylan were loners, is this true? We heard that they were part of the “trench coat mafia,” what do you know about this? We heard that they were bullied, what did you see?” and so forth. Those leading questions by reporters could have easily swayed those being interviewed into giving an answer that they may not have given otherwise.

The Psychological Status of the Colorado Shooter

At this time, we know virtually nothing about the shooters’ mental health history. News outlets are reporting, based mainly on interviews with acquaintances, that Holmes was quiet and shy. With regard to a psychiatric diagnosis, it is impossible to know what diagnosis he has, if any. Only after extensive evaluations and interviews, with trained mental health professionals, could a reliable diagnosis be determined. Short of that, every diagnosis is simply guess.

In time, we will learn a great deal of information about the shooter’s mental health status. Being quiet and shy, liking Guitar Hero, and possibly setting up a profile on Adult Friend Finder are not the actions and behavior of any identifiable mental illness. In the meantime, resist the urge to diagnose the shooter. Critically evaluate the media’s message and don’t jump to conclusions based on a very limited amount of information that is currently available.

Have a comment or want to reprint this article? Let me know.

Clinical Terms In The News, Related to the Colorado Shooting

In light of what many are calling the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, you will likely be hearing many reports about the clinical and psychological status of the shooter. At this time, there have been no reports about his clinical or psychological status but mental health professionals have been speculating about it in the news. Below is a list of clinical terms and information that you may be hearing about or may be wondering about, in relation to the Colorado shooter.

Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a severe and debilitating thought disorder that is diagnosed in less than 2% of the United States population. Symptoms of the disorder include: having a break with reality, illogical thoughts and extreme emotional and social dysregulation, among others. The probability of developing schizophrenia is relatively low compared to other mental health disorders.

The perception of individuals with schizophrenia being violent remains strong in our society. The facts do not match that perception. Individuals with schizophrenia are no more dangerous than the average person except under four conditions that increase the likelihood for violence. Those four conditions include:

1. Having a history of violence
2. Actively using drugs and alcohol
3. Off medication and actively psychotic
4. Lack of insight into one’s mental illness

Those conditions may increase the likelihood of violence but they do not guarantee violence. It is difficult (and in fact may not be possible) to accurately predict who is going to be violent and under which conditions.

The National Institute of Mental Health states the following about schizophrenia and violence:

“Most violent crimes are not committed by persons with schizophrenia and most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent acts.”

Individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators of violence.

Schizophrenia is often confused with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which was formerly called multiple personality disorder.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: DID symptoms include: the presence of two or more identities, at least two of these identities recurrently take control of the person’s behavior and having an inability to recall personal information. DID is very rare and is diagnosed in less than 1% of population.

The Bottom Line: Schizophrenia is not DID and multiple personality disorder is now called DID.

Psychosis: Psychosis is a break with reality. An individual who is psychotic might hear voices, see things that are not real or believe that someone is following them. The voices associated with psychosis are generally negative. The voices may be telling an individual to harm themselves or someone else. The voices can be very unpleasant and frightening.

Psychosis is associated with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorder not otherwise specified (NOS), and several others.

An individual can have a psychotic break and never have another. In clinical terms, that is called Schizophreniform disorder.

Psychopath: According to research by Hare and Newman, psychopaths are:

  • shallow,
  • deceptive,
  • grandiose,
  • dominant,
  • superficial,
  • manipulative,
  • are unable to establish emotional bonds,
  • lack empathy, guilt, and remorse,
  • are social deviants, impulsive and ignore the norms of society.

Many clinicians and researchers believe that psychopaths are untreatable.

Psychopath is a term used interchangeably with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), sociopathy, and psychopathy but they are not same, at least technically (and according to Hare). Research shows, according to Hare, that most people with ASPD are not psychopathic but most psychopathic individuals meet the current diagnostic criteria for ASPD. Despite Hare’s contention that psychopaths and individuals with ASPD are very different, some researchers contend that both psychopaths and individuals with ASPD are virtually the same.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD): Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by difficulty interacting with others or lacking the desire to interact with others. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder are typically not shy. On some occasions, they can be charismatic. Ted Bundy, who is considered by many to be a “textbook” case of ASPD, was generally well-liked.

Individuals with ASPD lack empathy, tend to be arrogant, are excessively opinionated, can be charming, and engage in aggressive or criminal acts. There are also characteristically irresponsible, frequently manipulative, impulsive, and have no regard for others.

The aforementioned are some of the terms and phrases that you will likely hear discussed in reference to the Colorado shooter, and in other cases of a similar nature.

The Vault & Threats to Members of Congress

The FBI has made thousands of files available in an online resource called The Vault. There is a great deal of interesting information in The Vault.

A file called “Threats To Members Of Congress -2003” revealed 58 threats. Here are examples of some of those incidents.

Victims: John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, and Joseph Lieberman 

A threatening letter was sent to both Lieberman and Kennedy that contained the following statement: “We Are Going To Kill You.” 

A different threatening letter sent to Kerry and Clinton contained the following message: “For you slowly trying to kill our son, we’re going to kill you…Your to die on the cross…” 

It was determined that the individual sending the letter was male but no other information could be identified through DNA analysis.

Victim: Senator Mary Landrieu

A threatening letter was sent to the home of the Senator that stated the following: “if you vote against invoking cloture against another one of President Bush’s nominees… I’m going to kill you. I will also go after your family, such as your husband and kids… I will kill them as well… If you care about yourself and your family, you’ll do what I say… If you vote against invoking cloture again, I’m going to track you, your family and even your staff down and kill them and you… I know where you live.” 

No DNA or latent prints could be retrieved from the envelope.

Victim: Congresswoman Maxine Waters

A phone threat was called into the Congresswoman’s Reno office and stated the following: “I’m going to kill you communist piece of shit.”

While being interviewed by the authorities, it was noticed that the interviewee had a book of photos in which the faces of Democratic senators and representatives had been stabbed and contained the word “dead” under each individual’s picture. Ultimately, the individual was seemingly no longer deemed a threat, perhaps due to the failing health.

Victim: Senator Mark Pryor

A letter was sent to the senator regarding an FCC rule change that stated the following: “it’s a bad idea and I’m counting on you to stop it. Do it or I’ll kill you. Really. I’m crazy. Just wait… Oh, and start an organization to save the jellyrabbit.” No additional threats were made and the case was closed. 

Victim: Senator Dan Inouye

An individual called the Senator to discuss healthcare. The individual identified himself as a medical doctor who said that he had been “illegally tormented by the FBI” and said “that if the senator did not call him back within two days, he would “take out” his family.” 

Some of the threats to members of Congress were relatively nonspecific, and some others received letters that were thought to have contained Anthrax.