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A sociopathic therapist says her lack of emotions made her good at her job

"Sociopath" author Dr. Patric Gagne sitting at home.
"Sociopath" author Dr. Patric Gagne sitting at home.
  • Dr. Patric Gagne was diagnosed with sociopathic personality disorder in her 20s.
  • According to her memoir, she felt there were too few treatment options for sociopaths.
  • She got a PhD in psychology and worked as a therapist helping other sociopaths.

All her life, Dr. Patric Gagne had the symptoms of sociopathic personality disorder, but few answers. In her new memoir "Sociopath," she detailed her childhood experience of feeling like an outsider and her struggle to find a proper diagnosis and treatment as an adult.

"Despite the numerous advancements in mental health awareness and treatment options, sociopathy still seemed to be getting ignored," Gagne said in her book.

Her experience laid down the perfect foundation for her eventual career as a therapist.

After learning that sociopaths and psychopaths are lumped together under the broad diagnosis "antisocial personality disorder," she sought out a PhD in psychology to better understand the nuances of personality disorders. She discovered that her urges to commit violent or dangerous acts are similar to OCD compulsions, and can be similarly treated with cognitive behavioral therapy.

Throughout her studies, she grew angrier at how sociopaths are portrayed in the media and not prioritized in mental health spaces. "These were human beings deserving of serious clinical attention," she says. "Instead, they were treated with malevolence and exiled."

Gagne said her personal experience and ability to remain emotionally detached made her uniquely qualified to help otherwise maligned patients.

She took on patients no one else wanted to treat

To get her PhD, Gagne had to log 500 hours as a clinic intern — something she objected to, at first, because she was worried her sociopathy would make her a bad therapist.

Gagne said she often got patients "who didn't fit neatly into any diagnostic box." They had personality traits she recognized in herself, such as a feeling of emptiness, a history of criminal and violent behavior, and difficulty with impulse control.

Once she was licensed, she said she "earned a low-key reputation as 'the sociopath therapist,'" and took on similar patients that her cohorts felt unable to help.

"My practice was like a psychology speakeasy," she said. "Unlicensed and unorthodox, I welcomed the misfits nobody else wanted to see."

She observed clients without her emotions getting in the way

In the book, Gagne wrote about a time when the head of her PhD department told her that her sociopathy might actually come in handy when dealing with patients.

"'Half the battle in clinical training is helping trainees compartmentalize their own emotional attachments,'" he said to Gagne before she started her internship. "'But you don't have any!'"

After she acclimated to her role at the clinic, she realized that being a sociopath came with strengths. "With my patients, there's no expectation for me to feel or relate or connect or even talk," she said to her dad. "I don't have to do anything but observe."

While she could take on a more detached role, she also was able to better understand other sociopaths with time. Even though empathy is one of the emotions sociopaths can't reach, Gagne said she was "flooded with understanding" as she met more and more patients like her.

She'd bend the rules if it helped someone

During her time at the clinic, Gagne had a patient who canceled an appointment — something that was out of character for her.

Gagne called her, and she said she was at home. Gagne asked for a photo of her living room.

"This request was highly unorthodox," Gagne says in the book. "Asking a patient to send me proof of their physical location was inappropriate, especially for an inexperienced therapist. Had my supervisor known, he would have been upset. But he didn't know. And I didn't care."

This move prompted her patient to leave wherever she actually was, calling Gagne when she got into her car.

While it was far from the first rule Gagne had broken at that point in her life, it was one of the first that benefited someone else.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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