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

Long Version
Section 3: An Overview of Sex Offender Treatment for a Non–Clinical Audience
Elements of Sex Offender–Specific Treatment
4 hours, 30 minutes

(5 minutes)

Use SlideUse Slide #1 and Slide #2: Elements of Sex Offender–Specific Treatment: Learning Objectives

Slide #1
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Slide #2
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Learning Objectives

By the end of this section of the curriculum, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the components of sex offender–specific treatment;
  • Explain why treating sex offenders who deny their offenses is important, and describe one method for encouraging sex offenders to admit their abuse;
  • Identify the four domains of sex offender–specific treatment;
  • Describe a number of sex offender–specific treatment methods;
  • Summarize research findings related to the length of sex offender treatment and treatment provider style variables; and
  • Identify several ethical issues in the treatment of sex offenders.

In this section of the training—to which we will devote more than half the day—we will be addressing sex offender treatment in some detail. We will cover program content, treatment intensity and duration issues, ethical considerations, and the most effective treatment provider styles. We’ll be focusing on the most common population of sex offenders, namely adult males who are neither profoundly developmentally disabled nor acutely mentally ill. While treatment of mentally ill and developmentally disabled sex offenders is important, there are fewer of these types of offenders and much less research has been done to guide us in our work with these populations. Our purpose is not to train you to become sex offender treatment providers; rather, it is to provide you with specific information about what sex offender treatment involves—and to better equip you to work collaboratively with treatment providers and other professionals who are involved in sex offender management.

Knowing the particulars of sex offender treatment can assist community supervision officers in supporting their probationers and parolees in their treatment. For example, supervision officers can ask what the offender is experiencing from week to week in his group, encourage him to fully participate, intervene if he fails to attend, report to the treatment provider concerns related to high–risk thoughts and behaviors, and so forth. Likewise, treatment providers should apprise probation and parole officers regularly about offender progress, absence from treatment, and other concerns. This knowledge can also help you differentiate between treatment that is likely to be effective with sex offenders and that which has been found to be ineffective.

Before we begin discussing sex offender treatment in detail, let’s talk for a moment about the interrelatedness of sex offender treatment and other strategies we use to manage sex offenders.1 Sex offender management is comprised of two different yet equally important strategies: those that place external controls on the offender as a means to manage his behavior, and those strategies that address building the offender’s own internal controls.

Use SlideUse Slide #3: Two Facets of Sex Offender Management: Addressing both External and Internal Controls

Slide #3
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I said that external controls are used as a means to manage an offender’s behavior. Probation and parole supervision, polygraph testing, sex offender registration, drug and alcohol testing, the use of community support networks, and so on, are all examples of external controls. The management strategy that addresses the development of internal controls—treatment—complements and works in tandem with these external control efforts. This training curriculum addresses the four domains of sex offender treatment: sexual interests, distorted attitudes, interpersonal functioning and behavior management. It is through these domains of treatment that we hope to assist sex offenders in the development of effective and lifelong internal controls. As you can see from this diagram, addressing internal controls is a central part of sex offender management; and one that is facilitated and enhanced by the use of external controls.