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John Douglas’s MasterClass Review: Learn How to Think Like an FBI Profiler

Ready to delve into the minds of notorious criminals and develop your own profiling skills? In our review, we'll look at what secrets you can learn of criminal profiling in John Douglas’s “How to Think Like an FBI Profiler” MasterClass.

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John Douglas Teaches How to Think Like an FBI Profiler: Our Verdict (2023)


4.4 / 5

In this MasterClass, we get the chance to dive into the intriguing world of criminal profiling with renowned former FBI Special Agent John Douglas. Hosted on the MasterClass platform, "How to Think Like an FBI Profiler" is comprised of 14 lessons—nearly 3 hours of fascinating content—where you will learn the art of determining motives, spotting deception, and developing intuition. While the course is somewhat lacking in-depth case studies, and should be avoided by anyone trying to avoid disturbing content, it holds great value for true crime enthusiasts and those looking to understand criminal behavior.


  • Professional guidance
  • Lots of learning resources
  • Engaging format


  • Potentially disturbing content
  • Lack of in-depth case studies
  • Limited explanations

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As a true crime enthusiast, the opportunity to explore the mind of an FBI profiler was very exciting. Who could resist learning about criminal profiling from John Douglas, the FBI’s first criminal profiler? John Douglas’s MasterClass promises an inside look into the world of criminal profiling, a chance to understand the motives and methods of infamous criminals while teaching you to think like an FBI profiler in everyday situations.

Join us in this review and discover whether “How to Think Like an FBI Profiler” truly lives up to the hype.

Table of Contents

What is the "How to Think Like an FBI Profiler" MasterClass?

How to Think Like an FBI Profiler” is an exciting course on the MasterClass platform, led by renowned special agent John Douglas, the FBI’s first criminal profiler. The course provides an overview of criminal profiling through 14 engaging video lessons – with a total time of 2 hours and 59 minutes.

As the chief of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, John Douglas conducted groundbreaking interviews with notorious criminals, and in this MasterClass, he shares his expertise, teaching you how to understand criminal motives and methods and how to apply said concepts in everyday life. The course will teach you valuable skills such as determining MO vs. Signature, developing intuition, spotting liars, and making calculated decisions.

Who is John Douglas?

Image of John Douglas, the FBI's criminal profiling pioneer
FBI’s criminal profiling pioneer John Douglas

John Douglas is a groundbreaking figure in criminal profiling and a former FBI Special Agent. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he studied psychology in New Mexico and Wisconsin, which eventually led him to become the FBI’s first criminal profiler in 1985. Throughout his illustrious career, John served as a hostage negotiator, SWAT team member, and instructor at the FBI National Academy. He introduced a revolutionary approach through interviews with convicted criminals, laying the foundations for qualitative profiling still used by the FBI today. Upon his retirement in 1995, he interviewed thousands of violent criminals and hundreds of serial killers such as Charles Manson and Ed Kemper.

With decades of experience, Douglas is a recognized authority on criminal behavior, and his role in the profiling scene, as well as his influence on the field, have inspired movies and TV series like “Silence of the Lambs,” “Criminal Minds,” and Netflix’s “Mindhunter” the latter based on John’s book of the same name.

Who is this course's target audience?

How to Think Like an FBI Profiler” is an ideal course for true crime enthusiasts, people interested in criminal psychology, and those interested in developing their intuition and understanding of human behavior. While there are no specific prerequisites, a basic understanding of criminal cases and profiling concepts may improve your learning experience.

If you are intrigued by the art of criminal profiling and eager to apply these skills in your daily life, this course is a must-try!

What topics does John Douglas's MasterClass cover?

The course covers a wide range of topics, integrating assignments and case studies into each lesson.

Here is an overview of what you will learn in this MasterClass:

  1. Meet Your Instructor: An introduction to John Douglas and the origins of criminal profiling.
  2. Becoming a Mindhunter: Douglas discusses his career shift to interviewing serial killers and the backstory of the Ed Kemper case.
  3. Learning From a Killer – The Kemper Tapes: You will hear exclusive tapes from John’s interviews with Ed Kemper and learn to identify the main three personality traits criminals share.
  4. Avoiding Cults and Manipulators – Charles Manson: Understand the characteristics of sociopathic personalities with Charles Manson as an example.
  5. Spotting a Liar – John Wayne Gacy: Techniques to identify deceptive behavior are demonstrated through the case of John Wayne Gacy.
  6. Understanding Motives – Son of Sam: An exploration of David Berkowitz’s motives and the equation “wh + how = who” in criminal profiling.
  7. Predicting Criminal Behavior – The Anchorage Killer: John explains the building blocks of criminal profiling using the case of Robert Hansen.
  8. Understanding the Perp and Victim – The Trailside Killer: Through the analysis of David Carpenter’s stalking and murders, John highlights how important the role of empathy is when it comes to identifying criminals.
  9. Identifying Vulnerabilities – Darrell Gene Devier: A look into the case of Darrell Gene Devier and how identifying vulnerabilities helps in criminal profiling.
  10. Developing Intuition: John explores intuition with real-life examples and teaches you ways to develop and trust this instinct.
  11. Determining M.O. vs. Signature – The BTK Strangler: Learn the difference between M.O. and Signature with the case of the BTK Strangler.
  12. Making Calculated Decisions – The Atlanta Child Murders: Explore the importance of taking calculated risks through the analysis of Wayne Williams.
  13. Lifesaving Lessons – Larry Gene Bell: John shares concrete, lifesaving lessons drawn from the abduction case of Shari Faye Smith.
  14. Doing Your Own Profile: In the final lesson, John discusses the importance of self-profiling and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

My favorite parts of "How to Think Like an FBI Profiler"

John Douglas’ Masterclass offers multiple practical tools for understanding criminal behavior and applying profiling techniques to everyday situations.

Here are some of my favorite lessons:

Overview of key criminal profiling terms
Key criminal profiling terms

Exclusive manuscript: In the Class Guide, you get access to an exclusive manuscript co-authored by John Douglas and his daughter, with lots of practical advice you can apply to everyday situations.

Emphasizing that research is your best ally in the writing process
Research is your best ally

Ask the right questions: It is crucial to know the subject matter before asking questions. As John says: “How can you interview Picasso if you don’t even know what the paintings are like?”

Engaging in an interview with Ed Kemper
Interviewing Ed Kemper

Unreleased content: Exclusive unreleased content featuring John Douglas’s interviews, where you’ll learn by hearing the same interviews that granted John the basis for developing his profiling techniques.

All of us can be targets of manipulators and not even realize it

Think like a manipulator: John teaches you to think like a manipulator to help you identify and protect against such individuals, using Charles Manson as an example.

Underlining the convincing nature of pathological liars
Pathological liars can be very convincing

How to spot a liar: John shares practical advice for identifying deceptive behavior, including observations on eye contact, repeated questions, fidgeting, and posture.

Following the theory, testing the hypothesis is the next step
Based on your theory, you test your hypothesis

Inductive and deductive reasoning: Solving cases and, in general, solving problems comes down to an effective use of both deductive and inductive reasoning. Where inductive reasoning takes you from specific to general, deductive reasoning starts with a basic premise and then takes you to a specific conclusion.

Suggesting that intuition is a skill that can be strengthened over time
Intuition is an ability that can be strengthened

Listen to your intuition: “It may not make sense when you feel it, but it will rarely steer you wrong.” The key is asking questions and paying attention to the answers. At the end of the day, your intuition could very well save your life.

Highlighting that in FBI profiling, a signature is considered a ritual
FBI’s A signature is a ritual

MO vs. Signature: MO (Modus Operandi) is learned behavior and continuously evolves as the perpetrator gains experience and confidence. A signature is a ritual that’s unique to the individual.

Emphasizing that it all boils down to situational awareness
It all comes down to situational awareness

Tips for keeping safe: John Douglas goes beyond criminal profiling and imparts crucial tips for personal safety. By knowing yourself and understanding the tendencies that can raise your risk level, you can protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim.

That’s the true meaning in life

Work-Life Balance: John opens up about his personal experience of being in a coma for days due to stress, showing the critical importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. By having a balanced life you’ll be healthier and happier.

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I liked about John Douglas's MasterClass

Here are some of the main reasons why I would recommend this Masterclass:

  1. Professional guidance by an expert FBI profiler: The course provides an amazing opportunity to learn the art of criminal profiling from the pioneer himself, John Douglas. His real-world experiences and insights into high-profile cases add authenticity to the learning experience.
  2. Lots of learning resources: The course offers a detailed class guide with practical techniques and exercises you can apply to your life. This additional resource also explains some of the terms used in the course and provides valuable information that complements the video lessons.
  3. Assignments after each lesson: These assignments help you better understand the acquired knowledge, facilitating its application in real-life scenarios.
  4. Engaging format: The course structure is similar to that of a true crime documentary, with suspenseful and action-packed lessons, which creates an immersive learning experience that keeps you hooked from start to finish.
  5. Application to real life: One of the standout features of the course is the practical application of profiling tools to everyday situations. John Douglas teaches the theoretical aspects and demonstrates how these skills can be used to analyze people and help protect yourself from potential threats in real life.

Drawbacks of "How to Think Like an FBI Profiler"

  1. Potentially disturbing content: A significant drawback is the inclusion of material that may be triggering or disturbing to some people, such as mentions of violence, sexual assault, and death. This aspect could be a challenge if you are sensitive to these topics.
  2. Lack of in-depth case studies: The course covers a wide range of cases, but assumes that you are already familiar with the details. A more thorough exploration of the cases could improve the learning experience, especially for those less familiar with true crime.
  3. Limited explanations: I think some topics could benefit from longer explanations. A deeper exploration of the psychological aspects behind certain profiling techniques would provide a more comprehensive understanding for learners.

Conclusion – Is John Douglas's MasterClass worth it?

Going through the “How to Think Like an FBI Profiler” MasterClass was a fascinating experience that gave me a unique perspective on the world of criminal profiling. Learning from John Douglas’s experiences helps you to easily understand and apply concepts you won’t find in any textbook.

Understanding the motives of others helps us understand their behavior, their choices, and what they may do next.

In conclusion, “How to Think Like an FBI Profiler” is a valuable course for true crime enthusiasts, aspiring profilers, and anyone interested in understanding the complexities of human behavior. Despite drawbacks like potentially disturbing content and limited case study depth, the course’s strengths—professional guidance, engaging format, and practical application—far outweigh the limitations. If you can navigate the potential discomfort of the cases and appreciate the unique lessons within, this MasterClass is totally worth the investment, as you will gain skills that go beyond true crime and could possibly save your life one day.

How to think like an FBI Profiler? Enroll in John’s class to find out.