The role of the psychologist in crisis/hostage negotiations

Behav Sci Law. Autumn 1998;16(4):455-72. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-0798(199823)16:4<455::aid-bsl321>;2-g.


Over the past three decades, there has been a noted increase in hostage and barricade incidents involving perpetrators with a variety of emotional, economic, and political motives. A hostage incident may be defined as an incident in which (a) perpetrator(s) hold(s) one or more persons against their will in a location known to police. A barricade incident, on the other hand, is an incident without hostages in which a perpetrator is barricaded, also in a location known to police and refusing to surrender. Approximately 25 years ago, a theory of crisis/hostage negotiations was developed which has been continuously refined in field applications. This article will define the goal of crisis/hostage negotiation, review the history of hostage taking from biblical times to the present, review the utilization of psychologists and other mental health consultants by police crisis/hostage negotiation teams, and discuss the four roles and related functions of psychologists on crisis/hostage negotiation teams.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Consultants
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Crisis Intervention / methods*
  • Crisis Intervention / trends
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / trends
  • Humans
  • Negotiating / methods*
  • Negotiating / psychology*
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Physician's Role*
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Public Policy