Forensic Psychological Services


The Mad, The Bad, and The Innocent

Dr. Barbara Kirwin is the author of The Mad, The Bad, and The Innocent (Little, Brown 1997; HarperCollins: Paperback).

The Mad

Over the past twenty years, renowned forensic psychologist Barbara Kirwin has confronted a terrifying lineup of murderers, rapists, paranoids, and psychopaths--including notorious serial killer Joel Rifkin--to distinguish the truly mad from the bad trying to cop an insanity plea.

The Bad

Here, in chilling detail, she recalls her most grisly cases and offers riveting psychological portraits of other infamous killers, including "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz, Colin Ferguson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Menendez brothers, Susan Smith, and John W. Hinckley, Jr.

The Innocent

Moving from prison holding cells to sensational courtroom trails, Kirwin tells the truth about the insanity defense and its abuse by criminal lawyers conjuring up outrageous defenses--from adopted child syndrome to postpartum psychosis to sleepwalking. As she pries open the criminal mind, Kirwin takes us on a riveting journey into the heart of darkness, where madness and evil thrive.

Excerpts from The Mad, The Bad and The Innocent have been published in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan and Glamour. A Japanese edition of the book is currently in translation.

"Fascinating and powerful...Spellbinding, as if written by Agatha Christie, Ph.D. in psychology." -- Rocky Mountain News

"Excellent description of the views of and implications of mental illness in the legal system. She goes through cases she's been called to work on. In doing so, she gives a great explanation of the "insanity defense" and where it works and does not. Fascinating read whether you're interested in crime, criminal law, or psychology." –

Purchase in hardcover and paperback.

The Icarus Complex  (forthcoming)

As evidenced by Tiger Woods and men as varied as Kevin, George, Mark Sanford and Elliot Spitzer, the psyche of the Icarus Men is complex and distinctive. It is a psyche that will be explored for the first time in The Icarus Complex. There is little nothing written in the clinical textbooks or the forensic journals about this new type of patient, nor have any of my colleagues have had experience with Icarus Men. This new syndrome is too often misdiagnosed as sociopathy, narcissism, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, when in fact the dynamic arises from an amalgam of organic, environmental, and social factors.

My understanding of the syndrome I lay out in The Icarus Complex arises from the many hours of sitting in confidence with each one of them as they systematically lay out their life stories –their dreams, their disappointments, their secret fears and doubts. I have also come to realize, as I read the tabloid headlines of each successive implosion of a prominent man, that any one of them could have been sitting there on my couch. Whether I am looking at the tragic fall of a public figure or the disgrace and ruin of a private citizen, the telltale signs and symptoms are the same.

As I will show in The Icarus Complex, many of these patients come to confront their mentality, morality, and motives, moving past shame and remorse into an understanding of themselves that promises a new and better life. Usually their wives, however wounded, go through the same process, discovering how their own attitudes and behavior enabled the husbands' actions. Often, as I help people recover from the Icarus Complex, I also help them rescue their marriages.

While some of the Icarus Men whose characters I explore in this book have tales of destruction have become notorious, most of them are private citizens I treat personally, their behavior no less traumatic for themselves and their loved ones. The stories they have shared with me explain much about the basis for their antisocial behavior, but their cases also reveal a modern society that on every level fails to support and nurture its men and that defines success in the most strenuous and suffocating terms. My summons to rectify that failure is the ultimate message of this book.

Serial Killers: Fact & Fiction

Did you take our quiz at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival? Here are the answers to shed light on everything you always wanted to know about serial killers but were afraid to ask. Click Here to view answers.