covert sensitization

Stanton Samenow

Stanton Samenow (born in 1941) is an American psychologist and writer.

"Dr. Stanton Samenow received his B.A. (cum laude) from Yale University in 1963 and his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1968...In 1978, Dr. Samenow entered the private practice of clinical psychology in Alexandria, Virginia. His specialty has continued to be the evaluation and treatment of juvenile and adult offenders. Dr. Samenow has delivered lectures, training seminars, and workshops in 48 states, Canada, and England, to a variety of professional groups including mental health, law enforcement, corrections, education, social services, and the judiciary. He has served as a consultant and expert witness for a variety of courts and agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Office of Probation. In 1980, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Law Enforcement Task Force and in 1982 to the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime. In 1987, President Reagan appointed him as a Conferee to the White House Conference on a Drug-Free America. Dr. Samenow has authored numerous articles for professional publications and appeared frequently on national radio and television broadcasts, including 60 Minutes, The Phil Donahue Show, Good Morning America, The CBS Morning News, the Today Show and The Larry King Show.


Early life and education

Stanton Ethan Samenow was born in 1941 to Charles (d. 1972) and Sylvia Samenow (d. 1995).


From 1970 through 1978, Dr. Samenow worked as a clinical research psychologist for the Program for the Investigation of Criminal Behavior at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C.. With Dr. Samuel Yochelson, the findings of their clinical research-treatment study of offenders were published in the three-volume set entitled The Criminal Personality. Since 1978, Dr. Samenow has been in private practice as a clinical psychologist in Alexandria, Virginia.

Many states have adopted treatment programs based on Dr. Samenow's research, largely in state correctional facilities. In his videos, it becomes apparent that he likes to let his patient talk while he mentally logs any cognitive distortions. He then educates the patient on those cognitive distortions that were heavily used. In theory, a patient will use less and less cognitive distortions, eventually reaching a point where covert sensitization can be employed to abruptly halt criminal thinking patterns.

The Criminal Personality, Volumes I, II & III was featured in the penultimate episode of HBO's series The Sopranos and prompts Dr. Jennifer Melfi, a fictional therapist in the show, to re-evaluate whether the therapy she gives mafia boss Tony Soprano is actually beneficial to his criminal behavior.

Marriage and children

Dr. Samenow has two sons, Jason and Charles.

Published works


  • The Criminal Personality, Volumes I, II & III (1976, 1977, 1986)
  • Inside the Criminal Mind (1984)
  • Before It's Too Late (1989)
  • Straight Talk About Criminals (1998)
  • In the Best Interest of the Child (2002)
  • Inside the Criminal Mind: Revised and Updated Edition (2004)
  • The Myth of the Out of Character Crime (2007)


  • Understanding the User (unknown date) appeared in Virginia Lawyer.


  • Good Intentions, Bad Choices: Overcoming Errors in Thinking
  • Commitment To Change I: Overcoming Errors in Thinking
  • Commitment to Change II: Tactics--Habits That Block Change
  • Commitment to Change III: The Power of Consequences


External links

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