You may know Dr. Kim Telesh from the De-Escalation and Verbal Resolution Training (DeVRT) classes that she facilitates at STARS, but did you know that she was featured on a cable television show?
Dr. Telesh started working as an industrial/organizational consultant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2016 and was assigned the task of training the DeVRT class for sworn and custody personnel. You may have also seen her on The Stalker Files, a show that aired on independent cable and entertainment network channel Reelz on January 27. The show features true-to-life cases related to celebrities and other critically-acclaimed shows. Dr. Telesh was a featured expert on celebrity stalking. “How did Dr. Telesh get selected for such an assignment?” you may ask. Well, let me inform you that she is an expert in celebrity stalking and her professional background has helped her develop this niche.
Dr. Telesh’s professional background sets the stage for her passion in the assessment and management of cases that involve stalking. She began her career working with individuals who suffered from severe mental illnesses (SMI). The cases she worked on were very complex. Not only did she have to address the challenges associated with psychotic and delusional symptoms, but she also had to factor in co-occurring substance abuse and homelessness issues. These individuals were described as being in and out of the correctional system. Dr. Telesh recognized the importance of collaboration to effectively address these complex problems.
Dr. Telesh’s experience and expertise in addressing the needs of people who suffer from SMI, homelessness and substance abuse afforded her the opportunity to work with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Case Assessment Management Program (CAMP). She began her career with CAMP in 2009, working side by side with detectives to assess the risk of potentially violent individuals, manage cases to mitigate problems and stop risk in its tracks. The program was fairly new and groundbreaking in its collaborative model. Dr. Telesh was instrumental in helping shape CAMP to what it is today.
Many of the cases were on stalking, and several of them were high-profile celebrity stalking cases.
The celebrity stalking cases frequently involved erotomanic stalking, which was described in an article on Officer.com titled “Emotionally Disturbed Mentally Ill Stalkers” as the following:
Erotomania is a delusion in which the stalker believes the individual of his/her love, loves him/her back. The victim would readily return the stalker’s affection, but are not able to because of some external influence. The delusion is based on a belief that the victim is the perfect match for them and that they are destined to be together forever. Erotomania frequently is not based on a sexual attraction. The erotomanic stalker fantasizes more about a romantic love and/or a spiritual union. The victim is usually of a higher status than the stalker. Efforts to contact the victim are common, but erotomanic stalkers may keep the delusion a secret. They study their victims, often from afar. They are commonly referred to as celebrity stalkers or obsessed fans.
Dr. Telesh has discussed the challenges in managing these delusions. Many of the individuals have poor insight into their mental health problems. Although delusional thinking is the cause of the problem, many times, these individuals are not breaking the law. When they do break the law, the “fix” is usually temporary since they return to the community and continue engaging in their problematic behavior. Dr. Telesh and her colleagues, including Dr. Pietro D’Ingillo (another LASD I/O psychologist), noticed a pattern of certain individuals who displayed stalking behavior. They frequently returned to the same location despite risks of being arrested. They came up with the term “Geographical Fixation Stalking,” which they presented at a National Association of Threat Assessment Professionals conference.
These are a few examples of why Dr. Telesh stands out as a subject-matter expert in celebrity stalking. She has managed over 800 cases, some of which were high-profile celebrity stalking cases, and she has been working with individuals with SMI for approximately 20 years. Dr. Telesh expressed that there are no black and white solutions. Management is difficult, and it takes collaboration to increase the likelihood of success. The answer is not in the correctional system, but instead, agencies must work together to help steer the target away from maladaptive behaviors.