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The Masters' Advocate review of Inside the Mind of BTK
Written by Russell   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 14:24

The following book review was published in The Masters' Advocate, Newsletter of the Northamerican Association of Masters in Psychology.[1]

Volume 14, Number 4 November-December, 2007.

Book Review

Inside the Mind of BTK:
The True Story Behind the Thirty Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer
by John Douglas and Johnny Dodd

Reviewed by Russell L. Smith

As a cognitive-behavioral psychologist interested in profiling, I ordered a copy of Inside the Mind of BTK: the True Story Behind the Thirty Year Hunt for the Notorious Wichita Serial Killer as soon as I learned it was being authored by legendary criminal profiler John Douglas, ex-Chief FBI's Investigative Support Unit, and coauthored by Johnny Dodd. Let me say up front that I have immense respect for profiling luminaries such as John Douglas, Roy Hazelwood, and Robert Ressler. That said, this book is the proverbial "must read" for any student of the criminal mind. It is also a must read for anyone interested in Inside the Mind of John Douglas or victimology and how victims experience trauma.

As one would expect from the title, the authors detail the intimate interplay between cognitive and behavioral processes in the development and functioning of serial killer Dennis Lynn Rader. But they also revealed the very real mental and physical risks for forensic professionals who overly exercise their own imaginations to conceptualize the thoughts, behavior, and motivations of sadistic psychopaths.

John Douglas shares his personal journey into darkness, a darkness precipitated by his lawful obsession with the nature and pursuit of serial killers. When he emerged from the effects of his own obsession induced coma, John Douglas had acquired a much deeper identification with the victims of crime. The information presented about the criminal mind and victimology make this book well worth the time.

However, what I found most interesting about this dissection of the mind of Dennis Lynn Rader, who called himself BTK, was the profound influences of cognitive-behavioral secrecy – in combination with the classical and operant conditioning of orgasm – in the development of pathological desires. Dennis Lynn Rader's maelstrom of deviant desires were created by the choices he made in fantasy and behavior – the same dark forces that progressively operate to shape the selective determination, risk taking, and life style choices of serial rapists and pedophiles – all a matter of power and control and suitable victims.

My personal interest in this case is due to the fact that BTK was profiled as an UNSUB (unknown subject) using the BRACE Character Profile™. The input ratings for this profile were developed through an internet message board and the resulting analysis was posted on profiler Bryan Nelson's website, Deviant Crimes, approximately nine months before BTK was identified as Dennis Lynn Rader.[2]

On a side note, I am seriously curious how Dennis Lynn Rader performed on his intake assessments during processing at the Kansas Department of Corrections. He may not have been administered a WAIS-III at that time, but I expect he had a pretrial diagnostic evaluation. My semi-educated guess is that his Performance IQ is significantly higher than his Verbal IQ, which is not particularly unusual for criminal populations. However, Rader's verbal skills are uniquely dysfunctional and the subscale score scatter might very well reveal more about the nature of his thought processes. There are quite a few bits and pieces of information in this book that suggest some type of learning disability which differentially affects verbal skills – in combination with some traits of an Autism Spectrum Disorder – but I doubt he would meet criteria for a clear diagnosis. In any case, this book makes it quite clear that Dennis Lynn Rader is a self-made man, one who created his own deviant desires by his cognitive-behavioral choices.[3]

Russell L. Smith is a Certified Health Services Provider-Psychological Associate and NCP. He has over thirty years of experience developing and implementing individual, group, and system wide programs using his Behavioral Relativity And Cognitive Economics model.[4]

Page 12


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