Jeannie Campbell

Jeannie Campbell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She is Head of Clinical Services for a large non-profit and enjoys working mainly with children and couples. She has a Masters of Divinity in Psychology and Counseling and bachelors degrees in both psychology and journalism. Jeannie started doing character therapy in March of 2009. Her Treatment Tuesdays feature assessments of fictional characters and plot feasibility while her Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts take a psychological topic and make it relevant to writers. She can be found at her blog, The Character Therapist, at, and website at, The Character Therapist, at

Serial Killers 201

Welcome to Serial Killers 201. (If you missed Serial Killers 101, where I discussed common background traits of psychosis, please click HERE. This section discusses the basic types of serial killers, based on the killer’s motives.

Act Focused
These killers generally don’t kill for the gratification of the kill, making the act itself their primary emphasis. They kill quickly and in two subtypes:

Visionaries: They usually directed by a vision or hearing voices (either God or the Devil), telling them to kill both of which legitimate their violence.

Missionaries: They go on “missions” to eradicate a specific group of people, such as prostitutes, white-collared bankers, etc.

Process Focused
The majority of serial killers are process focused. They get off (yes, in that way) on the method of their kill. They kill for the enjoyment of it and usually get a perverse sexual thrill out of it; therefore, they take their time and go slowly. Hedonism at it’s worse. These killers fall into four subtypes, based on their motives as well:

Gain: They get some profit or personal gain from the kill. Most females fall into this category, like Lavinia Fisher, who would murder her hotel guests and keep her victims’ belongings. You can read up on the 10 most infamous female killers HERE and almost every one of them stood to gain personally.

Lust: Sexual pleasure is associated with murder. These sick folk will have sex while in the process of killing, or engage in necrophilia after they have killed.

Thrill: Killing someone gives these folk a rush or high. They especially like to watch the lights go out in their victims’ eyes. It’s the ultimate adrenaline rush that makes them feel alive and euphoric. They typically don’t engage in sex either before or after.

Power:The pleasure comes from manipulating and dominating, although the argument could be made for this to fall in with any of the above. Usually sex is involved, but it’s not as important as it is for the Lust killer. Some research I found led me to think that this is considered the “sociopath,” but every person talked about in this article would be one of those.

The type of serial killer featured in the media the most is the Lust killer, so I want to delve a bit further into their psyche.

Lust killers’ main motivation is sexual gratification. They almost always exhibit sadism (experiencing pleasure while inflicting pain on others). They usually are not opportunistic killers but rather highly organized, with vast amounts of planning and forethought put into their kills.

They tend to go through four phases:

They act out the crime over and over in their minds, maybe with use of pornographic material. The desire to kill is manifested, and this time period may last years before they progress to phase two.

The Hunt
The killer might focus on primarily on the “right” type of victim, or he may focus on the “right” type of location. Once he finds the victim, he may stalk him or her (hunting) for a long time, memorizing schedules down to the minute. It could take many more years to go through this phase, and cover hundreds of miles.

The Kill
The victim is lured into the trap and then the killer makes real on his fantasy. Depending on how elaborate the kill ritual is, this could take a while . . . several days or longer. There will almost definitely be “overkill,” in that there could be extreme torture, mutilation, or dismemberment. The killer might have sex with the corpse, drink the victim’s blood, eat body parts, whatever to preserve their moment of ecstasy. The killer might take a token of his kill or leave a calling card, but not always.

The killer will likely feel empty or depressed because their relief of torment was only short-term. More lives will have to be taken to experience temporary relief. It would be during this stage that a killer would write a confession to the police or media. Unless caught, it is inevitable that he will kill again.

How’s that for a happy ending to our class? Hope that this helps you sadists out there with your serial killer development.


The Character Thrapist