In Chapter 3 of The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson describes, in great detail, the bizarre and highly questionable therapeutic methods of psychiatrist Elliot Barker. Eager to gain a better understanding of psychopaths and how they could be cured, Barker traveled the world visiting many locations in which outlandish treatments were being practiced. Some of the methods, including the use of LSD and nude therapy, intrigued Barker who later applied them to many of his patients in the Oak Ridge hospital for the criminally insane, in the hopes of curing them. While Elliot Barker truly considered his methods to be therapeutic, later studies showed that 80% of his “cured” patients who were released into the outside world went on to reoffend later in life. The results of Barker’s methods brought about much criticism, and ultimately provided more reason to believe that psychopaths could not be cured.
I found this chapter to be really interesting. I certainly do not condone Barker’s methods, but I do find it interesting to hear why these methods of therapy made sense in his mind. To us, the practice of addressing one’s genitals or staring at another’s for hours would in no way, shape, or forms, seem therapeutic. But to people like Elliot Barker and Paul Bindrim, the psychotherapist who provided inspiration to Barker, physical nakedness was merely an outlet to emotional nakedness, and therefore it made perfect logical sense. It’s fascinating to look at things from different perspectives sometimes.