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

Lecture Topic TOPIC: TREATMENT PROVIDER CHARACTERISTICS
(10 minutes)

Use SlideUse Slide #63: Treatment Provider Characteristics

Now that we’ve reviewed the content areas that comprise effective sex offender treatment, let’s briefly look at treatment style variables. Here our focus is not the content of the curriculum, but rather how treatment providers deliver the program. As we’ve observed before, sex offender treatment often has involved a quite punitive treatment style, that is, one characterized by aggressive verbal confrontation by treatment providers and other group members, a sort of “in-your-face” drill sergeant approach. Also, as we’ve discussed before, this may feel satisfying to some treatment providers and even to some group members, but the salient issue is whether this treatment style actually promotes the kinds of changes we are interested in having sex offenders make—those that reduce the likelihood of sexual recidivism.

Over the past several years, experts in the field have begun to question the wisdom, value, and ultimate impact of this harsh confrontational approach (Beech & Fordham, 1997; Beech & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005; Blanchard, 1995; Bumby, Marshall, & Langton, 1999; Fernandez & Marshall, 2000; Marshall, 1996, 2005; Marshall et al., 1999, 2003; Marshall & Serran, 2004; Serran & Fernandez, Marshall, & Mann, 2003). In fact, drawing on the general psychological literature on variables that enhance treatment outcomes, several studies have examined the relationship between therapist characteristics, group climate variables, and other process-related and contextual factors on sex offender treatment specifically, and have found support for the importance of a warm, empathic, and genuine style within a therapeutic climate—both in terms of client engagement, treatment progress, and treatment outcomes (see, e.g., Beech & Fordham, 1997; Beech & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005; Fernandez & Marshall, 2000; Marshall, 2005; Marshall et al., 1999, 2003; Marshall & Serran, 2004; Serran & Fernandez, Marshall, & Mann, 2003).

Use SlideUse Slide #64: Treatment Provider Characteristics (cont.)

These findings are very consistent with other social psychological and educational research—namely that people are more likely to be responsive to new information when it is delivered in a non–hostile and non–threatening manner—and suggest that the hostile, cold, punitive approaches are unlikely to produce the desired results with sex offenders and, in some cases, may have a more negative impact.