A Project of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice

Adapting the Curriculum

This curriculum is intended for adaptation by users and can be amended to reflect the following considerations.

The Audience

It is very important for users to understand that this curriculum is not designed for a clinical audience; it was not developed to teach someone how to conduct sex offender treatment. Rather, as the title indicates, it was designed for a non–clinical audience, primarily representatives from other professions who are involved or interested in sex offender management. The material is particularly relevant for line probation and parole agency staff and for members of collaborative interagency teams who are involved in sex offender management.

Users are encouraged to adapt the materials to provide more detail for some audiences and less for others based on their questions and substantive needs. For instance, the section on the effectiveness of treatment and practice patterns might be of great interest to policy level officials. On the other hand, the detailed section on the components of treatment—including the specifics of how probation and parole officers work collaboratively with treatment providers—may be most helpful to line staff and their supervisors.

The Time Available for Training

As has been mentioned, this curriculum has been developed in two versions. The short version can be presented as a 90 minute briefing and the long version is designed as a full day session. The time can be further varied, depending on the amount of participant discussion included and the number of learning activities used. Trainers may want to consider covering the material in the long version during several sessions over a number of weeks or months.

The Number of Participants and the Importance of Audience Interaction

Much of the curriculum can be delivered in lecture style, supplemented by learning activities and discussions. It is strongly recommended, regardless of the audience size, that trainers make plans for substantial discussions and substantive exchanges among small groups of participants. This curriculum reflects an exercise in adult learning and users should assume that the experiences and knowledge bases of the participants will be a valuable part of their training experiences. Disagreements, debates, and supporting examples of individuals’ own experiences are likely to emerge, and small groups (of 25 people or less, if possible) provide an appropriate setting to processes audience members’ reactions to the material that is presented. Each group should have a skilled trainer or facilitator assigned to manage it.

Local Environment

It was not possible to develop a curriculum that reflects sex offender treatment approaches and practices in all jurisdictions across the nation. Much of what is offered is relatively new and may not comport with available resources or expertise. For instance, many jurisdictions may simply not have access to the type of sex offender treatment that is outlined in this curriculum. If treatment is not readily available to the agency or community where the training is being conducted—either because of funding constraints or the limited availability of treatment providers trained to offer these services—users will probably want to modify the curriculum to reflect this. If this is the case, trainers may want to develop some discussion questions or exercises to begin to plan for increasing access—either through pursuing more support or funding options, or through working with local mental health professionals to encourage the development of additional specialized treatment capacity.

Varying Knowledge Levels of Participants

One of the important lessons CSOM has learned in delivering training in a variety of settings and jurisdictions is that often the participants represent a wide spectrum of experience and knowledge about sex offenders and issues related to their management. Some participants may be new probation or parole officers who have never supervised a case load. Others may be seasoned specialized officers who possess extensive experience working with sex offenders and collaborating with treatment providers, victim advocates, and others.

It is suggested that users make every effort to ensure that the training is as meaningful and relevant to their audiences as possible. For example, trainers may want to survey participants well in advance of the session they conduct to develop a clear sense of their experience, knowledge level, and questions regarding sex offender treatment. If there is a wide variation in participants’ knowledge level and experience, trainers may consider clustering those who are similar into discussion groups. This would allow more seasoned participants to exchange ideas, react to the materials presented, and provide support to one another. At the same time, inexperienced officers could share with one another the unique challenges they face in their work. Conversely, users might take a different approach, deliberately mixing participants who possess different levels of experience. In this situation, those who are not as familiar with sex offender management issues can query those who bring more knowledge to the training.

Consideration of Victims

The presence of a victim advocate or a treatment provider who is skilled at working with victims is a particularly important aspect of a training team. Users should be prepared for the fact that there may be survivors of sexual abuse in the audience, and that they may have strong reactions to the material that is presented. It is important for trainers to be prepared to validate and support the survivors of sexual assault in the context of the training, and to identify resources (such as local sexual assault crisis services or victim advocacy organizations) to whom participants can be referred, if they need or want further assistance.

Adult Learning

Perhaps the most important caution for anyone planning this training is to remember that this is an opportunity for adult learning. Participants bring to trainings extensive knowledge and rich sets of experiences that affect how they process the information that is provided. Therefore and as stressed earlier, users of the materials in this curriculum should not plan events with only lectures. Instead, trainers are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of the exercises and discussion questions that are provided, as participants take away much more useful and practical information when they have opportunities to engage faculty members and their colleagues in discussions that relate the material that is presented to their own and their agencies’ work.

Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Information

One of CSOM’s primary responsibilities is to facilitate information exchanges among the stakeholders involved in sex offender management. This curriculum draws heavily upon the practical experiences of individuals who are involved in the delivery of treatment to sex offenders, and attempts to strike a balance between simply describing a range of practices on the one hand and, on the other, articulating what seems to be emerging as effective practice based upon the existing research. Because there is debate in the field about some aspects of sex offender–specific treatment, this curriculum has been designed to provide trainers with as much information as possible regarding these various aspects so that they can make informed decisions regarding how they broach the material with their live audiences.

Qualifications of Trainers

Every attempt has been made to ensure that the materials in this training curriculum are complete, and that they identify and include relevant and helpful reference materials and resources that can be provided to audiences. However, the delivery of treatment interventions to sex offenders is a specialized skill area within the broader mental health field. It is strongly recommended, therefore, that those who present the information in this curriculum have extensive experience in the provision of specialized sex offender treatment as well as in training and group facilitation.

Team Training

Based on emerging practices in jurisdictions around the nation, this training promotes and encourages a multi–disciplinary, collaborative approach to sex offender management. As such, CSOM recommends that trainers who are specialized in the delivery of sex offender treatment be joined by others representing the various professions with whom a treatment provider would likely collaborate—probation/parole staff, polygraph examiners, victim advocates, and those who provide treatment to the victims of sexual assault. This approach will ensure that the expertise and insights of others who share responsibility for sex offender management are shared during the training and that the collaborative approach that is discussed in the curriculum is modeled by those who conduct the training.