Conference With Dr. Stanton Samenow, Author Terri Jentz
CRIME VICTIMS UNITED
On September 7, a conference with Dr. Stanton Samenow and author Terri Jentz was held at the Salem Conference center. The conference was co-sponsored by the Oregon Alliance of Children's Programs (OACP) and Crime Victims United (CVU). It was well-attended with over 200 attendees including the Attorney General of Oregon, the Director of the Oregon Department of Corrections, and many people who work in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.
The main organizers of the conference were Stephanie Alvstad, Executive Director of J Bar J Youth Services in Bend, which runs juvenile treatment facilities, and Rolanda Sory of OACP. They did a great job and CVU is grateful for their efforts.
Dr. Samenow is a noted clinical psychiatrist who specializes in treating juvenile offenders. He is that author of "Inside the Criminal Mind", "The Criminal Personality" and several other highly-regarded books.
Dr. Samenow's approach to treatment eschews the search for why juveniles become criminals and instead focuses on the thinking errors that they make and how to change this thinking. From the first minutes of his day-long presention it was clear that Dr. Samenow has a talent for cutting through layers of complexity to get to the heart of the matter. He quickly dispatched the conventional wisdom on the supposed external "underlying causes" and focused on how criminals view themselves and the world.
Dr. Samenow has catalogued 17 thinking errors. Among them are unrealistic expectations, blaming of others, lack of a concept of injury to others. He has also catalogued 16 tactics used by criminal thinkers to deflect responsibility such as lying, minimization, accusing others, and attacking.
During the day I jotted down several nuggets of wisdom that Dr. Samenow dispensed. Here are some of them.
"Digging around in an archeological expedition yields absolutedly nothing of value."
"The search for why stands in the way of - impedes - the quest for change."
"It is not the environment from which a person comes but how he chooses to deal with life."
"It is the individual who makes the choice. Crime does not reside within society - it resides within the individual."
"The child brings up the parent as well as vice-versa."
"We need to drop our theories about reasons why and try to understand how these kids think."
"The perversion of confession is that you empty the cup of evil so you can fill it up again."
"Choices are made to use drugs. You do not catch this 'disease' like the flu."
"Criminal thinkers are addicted to a way of life."
"No matter what has happened in your life, how are you going to deal with it?"
"You think that a 10-year old doesn't know it's wrong to beat someone up . . . This [talk about adolescent brain development] is another excuse to avoid personal responsibility."
"Victim-offender mediation fortifies the criminal's view of himself as a 'good guy'."
"Part of our job is to generate internal motivation even when there is little there."
"It is only when concrete consequences surround the person that that person is ready to listen."
"Guilt is the guardian of goodness." - Willard Gaylin
"It's like chipping away at marble with a feather."
"If you traffic in feelings with this population you will find yourself in a quagmire from which you will never extract yourself."
"If the thinking changes, the feelings come around."
"Anger management as a concept legitimizes anger. It says anger is OK, you just have to manage it. This idea is flawed, flawed, flawed, doomed to failure. Anger is a result of unrealistic expectations and fear."
Visit Dr. Samenow's web site.
Visit Dr. Samenow's "Concept of the Month" web page. This is a repository of a wealth of insight.
The lunchtime keynote speech was given by Terri Jentz, author of "A Strange Piece of Paradise". In 1977, while camping in Central Oregon, Terri and her college roommate were savagely attacked by a stranger who ran over them with his truck and then attacked them with an axe. They barely survived. The crime was unsolved. Fifteen years later, Terri engaged in a mission to understand the crime and herself and to identify the perpetrator. Her compelling and beautifully-written book tells that story.
During her talk, Terri read from the chapter in the book that describes the attack. She then explained how, with the help of CVU co-founders Bob and Dee Dee Kouns, she investigated the crime and eventually identified the perpetrator.
In 1997, Terri and Crime Victims United teamed up to successfully promote legislation that abolished Oregon's three-year statute of limitations for attempted murder. But this was too late to apply to Terri's case.
The perpetrator in Terri's crime is the epitome of the manipulative criminal thinker, adept at deflecting and avoiding consequences, that Dr. Samenow exposes in his books. Most recently the perpetrator evaded consequences for an assault and robbery when the victim died from unrelated causes and the district attorney dropped the charges. This is but the latest in a lifetime of preying on people that has gone mostly unpunished.
Terri finished by sharing with us some of the touching email she has received from readers around the country, such as the email from a habitually battered woman who took from the book the idea that she is not obligated to demonstrate unconditional compassion for her tormentors.
Visit Terri Jentz's web site.
Dr. Samenow speaks to an audience of over 200
Terri Jentz reads a passage from her book, "A Strange Piece of Paradise"
Dr. Samenow, Terri Jentz and conference organizer Stephanie Alvstad
CVU President Steve Doell thanks Dr. Samenow
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