This is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
the harder you fall when someone tears them down."
As a psychologist, I am often called to prisons to help with “troubled” inmates. Often times my role is only to establish mental acuity to determine whether or not the accused is mentally fit to stand trial. It is a lackluster job working with the most mentally ill faction of our society. Those men and women whom have often been discarded by their families and peers. But it is never boring.
On the morning of July 23, 1991 I got a call from the Columbia Correctional Institution to help determine the sanity of a young man they had arrested the day before. That was the first time I heard the name, Jeffrey Dahmer. Days later I would hear the stories reported on the radio and read reports of the evidence found in the apartment of the man they had labeled The Milwaukee Cannibal.
It was a frightening tale to be sure. Literally the boy next door. A young, attractive man in his 20's had murdered several men and had kept their corpses in his apartment and had kept some body parts in his refrigerator, presumably to eat. It was a horrific scene that brought the country's outrage to a focus on this young man.
But this "monster" was my patient and as I watched his story unfold on television and in the papers, I was meeting with him regularly to determine whether or not he could stand trial. Everyone agreed that these were not the acts of a sane man. The question was whether or not he was so impaired by a his mental defect at the time of the murders that he did not know the nature or quality of the act.
Ultimately I found that he was aware of his actions and knew they were wrong at the time. He told me that he felt compelled to do it and did not understand why. Based on this, his lawyer established a defense of irresistible impulse. Their assertion was that Mr. Dahmer, although able to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the act, suffered from a mental disease that made him incapable of controlling his actions.
The courts extended my sessions with Jeffrey so I could have more time to establish what capacity he had in controlling his impulses. We met 5 days each week for 2 hours each day. As we talked and I learned more about his childhood experiences and his relationship with his mother and father I found myself filled with a desire to help this man recover.
Modern psychological therapy models and techniques are as varied and diverse as the psychologists and clients who use them. Most psychologists have a particular theory, method or school of thought that they find most useful. Whichever method is followed, the potential effectiveness is useless if the doctor is unsuccessful in building a strong therapeutic alliance with the client.
This alliance needs to be forged as a partnership built on a foundation of trust, honesty and compassion. I knew this. And I knew that I had to get Jeffrey to trust me and the safety of the therapy room in order to feel comfortable enough to honestly reveal his most private thoughts so I could begin to treat the illness.
Compassion is the most important element because to truly help him find his way out of this darkness, I first had to understand where the illness began. I have always thought it critical for me to learn my client’s worldview in order to enhance cooperation in the counseling process. I was often quoted as saying, "It is difficult to accomplish true change unless you are listening to what the client wants, not what other people think the client needs."
Over the weeks that proceeded our initial visit I discovered an extremely lonely boy who grew into an even lonelier man. Jeffrey wanted what we all want. He wanted someone to love. He wanted companionship. But somehow in his deeply tormented view of the world he felt the only way to have that was to take it.
I am still unsure if in my efforts to make that connection with Jeffrey and understand him, allowed me to get into his head or allowed him to get into mine. But as you read these posts you can decide that for yourself.
Thanks for reading ...