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Developmental Psychotherapy for Antisocial Adolescents

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Background/Objectives: Antisocial behavior is common during adolescence and incurs significant costs both for society and for the young people themselves. While most adolescents will not continue on a trajectory of antisocial behavior as they age, they may still be affected years later in terms of educational and employment opportunities. Despite stated goals of rehabilitation, there is a tendency for society to focus on harsh sentencing and punitive approaches, which have not been demonstrated to work.

This paper presents an overview of theory and research on antisocial behavior and describes an approach that incorporates a developmental understanding of delinquent youth with a psychoanalytically informed perspective on treatment.

Method: This method has been employed successfully over the past 20 years in combination with a comprehensive approach in the context of a juvenile justice system that allows for young offenders to be given provisional sentences and to have their criminal charges dismissed if they successfully complete the program.

Results: Developmental psychotherapy is a viable and feasible approach for young offenders. It has the promise of more long-lasting effects than approaches that depend primarily on containment or punishment.
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Keywords: Developmental psychopathology; antisocial adolescents; disruptive; impulse-control and conduct disorders; psychotherapy; young offenders

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • Adolescent Psychiatry publishes reports of original research, critical reviews of topics relevant to practitioners, clinical observations with analysis and discussion, analysis of philosophical, ethical or social aspects of the fields of psychiatry and mental health, case reports with discussions, letters, and position papers. Adolescent Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, and the official journal of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, aims to provide mental health professionals who work with adolescents with current information relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in adolescence.
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