Aaron Hotchner

Cami Ferguson



Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner, played by Thomas Gibson, is a fictional character from the CBS crime drama series Criminal Minds. Hotch is a Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. He has appeared on the show since its first episode aired in September of 2005. Hotch begins the series married to his high school sweetheart Haley, though they divorce in a later season. They have a son together named Jack. He knows his family gets the shaft when it comes to his job and he knows that he is giving up precious time with his wife and son to be at work. He is sincere about wanting to be there for them and wanting to work on his relationship with his wife, but he can’t seem to tear himself away from the office and the grueling hours of the job. He definitely underestimates how tough it is to balance his family time and the career he always wanted. He is extremely dedicated to the job and the rest of the team sees the sacrifices that he makes. He is able to be in the moment and put aside his conflicts that burden him either at home or on the job. He has this detachment about him that many of his colleagues share with him to be able to do their job well, but he also is very passionate and engaged in understanding the criminals and is able to but himself in their shoes. When Hotch’s son was born he sees that working at the BAU interferes with spending time with his family and asks to be transferred to a different division within the FBI. Another agent, Derek Morgan, tells Hotch the team needs his help and he ends up coming back to the BAU, but unfortunately when Hotch returns home from a case he finds that Haley took Jack and left him. He is served with divorce papers later. He tries to see Jack as much as possible, but still he cannot seem to manage being the leader of his team and a father. Later on the in the fourth season the team works on an old case of Hotch’s in which they identify George Foyet as a serial killer known as the Boston Reaper. During the season four finale Hotch is confronted by the Reaper and is stabbed nine times before the Reaper delivers him to the hospital. The Reaper steals the address of Haley and Jack and now they are put into protective custody. The Reaper pretends to be a US Marshall to enter Haley’s house and kills her. Hotch reaches the house and fought Foyet to the death. He is now left with his son Jack and is forced to make a decision whether to retire from the BAU or return to work. Haley’s sister has offered to help out with Jack while Hotch is at work, so therefore Hotch returned to the BAU.

Psychoanalytic Approach

Aaron Hotchner, from a Psychoanalyst approach, is stuck in the anal stage. I wouldn’t say that he is overly messy or makes a mess of other people’s live, but he definitely is concerned with being neat and having order. According to the Psychoanalyst approach people who develop these traits were toilet trained an excessive amount. This could be because both of his parents were career driven people who didn’t have the time or the energy to put up with the nonsense of potty-training a toddler. Hotch’s mother was an alumna of the Mary Baldwin College and his father was a workaholic lawyer, who suffered a heat attack and died when Hotch was a teen. They instilled in Hotch that he better learn to be potty-trained or else because they just weren’t going to handle it otherwise. In season one, episode eight, Hotch talks to a killer and basically confesses to being abused when he was younger. He tells the unsub that it’s not surprising that a person who endured so much abuse as a child would grow up to be a killer. The unsub asks what happens to the rest of those who were abused and Hotch says they grow up to catch the killers. Hotch’s father probably made it very tough for him to succeed as a boy, so Hotch picked up on the qualities that would try to impress his father most. Hotch is very thorough in all of his briefings with the police departments. He knows exactly what the unsub does for a living and what kind of mannerisms he or she possesses. He doesn’t leave work until all his paperwork is completed and doesn’t let anyone else help him with it, because it’s his job and his job alone to do it.
Hotch has also developed some defense mechanisms to help cope with the intense situations he deals with on a day-to-day basis. “Challenges from the outer environment and from out inner urges threaten us with anxiety. We have to distort reality to protect ourselves against the painful or threatening impulses arising from the id. The processes that the ego uses to distort reality to protect itself are called defense mechanisms.” Hotch represses a lot of the things he sees everyday. “Repression is the ego defense mechanism that pushes threatening thoughts back into the unconscious.” Pictures surround him of murdered children, men, and women. Some were stabbed numerous times, some are shot, and some are tortured. Hotch is able to repress this images so they don’t affect him or so they don’t consciously affect him, but I think a lot of the things he sees and the cases he is on leads him to develop a serious demeanor at all times. The stress of repressing all of this could have caused the dissolution of his marriage. He feels he must resolve every issue and solve every case he is on, but it’s just not possible so he must repress the horrific images he has in his head. Hotch is also in denial. “Denial is simply refusing to acknowledge anxiety-provoking stimuli.” He knew from the get go that his marriage was in trouble. When he got suspended for two weeks Haley was so happy that he was home and kept telling him that it was a blessing in disguise. When Morgan called upon Hotch to come and help on a case in Milwaukee he went disregarding his wife’s wishes. I don’t think Hotch ever thought that Haley would leave him. He believed that she would always be there when he got home because of their history together. When Haley left he still kept his job and tried no harder than before to get her back. He was in complete denial that anything had ever happened. Yes he missed her, but he showed no signs at all that she was even gone. For months his coworkers had no idea that Haley had even left. Hotch also displaces his aggression to Foyet. “Displacement is the shifting of the target of one’s unconscious fears or desires.” Yes, Hotch was so angry that Foyet stabbed him and went after his family, but Hotch also has a lot of pent up anger. Hotch is angry that his family left him and I also think he is mad at himself for letting his family leave. He knew that Haley loved him and trusted him and to see Foyet kill her for no reason brought out the worst in Hotch. He beat Foyet until he was dead and kept beating him even after he knew he was dead. Hotch was so heartbroken that his family really was gone all because of his job and Haley would have never died if he didn’t work for the BAU.

Cognitive Approach

“It is said that all individuals have distinctive, enduring, cognitive styles of dealing with their everyday cognitive tasks of perception, problem solving, and decision making.” One of these cognitive styles is being field independent. Aaron Hotchner is a field independent person. A part of being a member of the BAU is escaping the influence of the field in their problem solving. A field independent person is more analytical and this allows for more complex levels of restructuring in problem solving. He is able to look at a crime scene and see the things that aren’t even noticeable to others. He can tell by the way the bodies are placed or dumped the level of remorse the killer has. The way killers talk to him gives him clues as to where the hostages may be or where the body is. Little hints that may be thought as nothing to a regular cop mean a lot to him and the job that he has to accomplish. In one episode, a killer suffering from three different personalities holds one of Hotch’s team members, SSA Reid, hostage. Reid was being videotaped and the video was streamed to his team. Reid was able to provide little hints that only Hotch was able to understand and this eventually led to Reid’s discovery. Reid quoted a passage from the bible, calling Hotch a narcissist. Hotch knew this trait was inaccurate and looked up the real passage in the bible to find out where Reid was.
Another cognitive style variable relevant to personality is termed cognitive complexity. Cognitive complexity is the extent to which a person comprehends, utilizes, and is comfortable with a greater number of distinctions or separate elements into which an entity or event is analyzed, and the extent to which the person can integrate these elements by drawing connections or relationships among them. Aaron Hotchner is high in cognitive complexity. He is comfortable in dealing with uncertainty, which also comes with the job. He needs to be prepared to solve complex problems that may not have straightforward answers. The people that he chases after aren’t easy to catch. They may drop of the grid for years, but Hotch is able to find them because he is able to place himself in their situation. The Boston Reaper (Foyet) dropped of the grid for years because a cop made a deal with him, but Hotch would make no such deal so the Reaper began killing again. Hotch was finally able to connect the Reaper and Foyet together which eventually led to his capture.


As a member of the BAU, Aaron Hotcher has to be aware of his own personality and downfalls because it is said that the best profilers are the criminals themselves. During the Foyet episodes Hotch enters this prison and is trying to gain information from one of the inmates. The inmate read Hotch so well that he knew Foyet would go after Hotch’s family. I think Hotch’s whole demeanor is a way for him to keep from being profiled. He is so serious all of the time and acts like nothing bothers him. He never expresses anger or happiness and you have rarely seen him crack a joke among his coworkers. This is why he developed so many defense mechanisms. He is an extremely private person, which doesn’t give anyone much room to judge or profile him. He is afraid of letting anyone in too much, because he doesn’t want to feel anything that could distract him away from his job. I also feel, using the cognitive approach that Hotch tries to analyze everything and there is always a solution, which is why nothing really gets to him. He is able to withstand so much because he is able to take himself out of the situation.
Aaron Hotchner. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Hotchner
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