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

Long Version
The Basics of Sex Offender–Specific Treatment

Subject Matter: This section of the curriculum provides an introduction to adult male sex offender–specific treatment by presenting its goals, its differences from other forms of mental health treatment, and brief descriptions of common characteristics of sex offender treatment. The section also includes a brief description of how ongoing sex offender assessment can inform the treatment process and an overview of several assessment tools that are not widely used in other kinds of mental health treatments. These tools include the polygraph, the penile plethysmograph, and the Abel Assessment of Sexual Interest. The material in this section is intended to introduce to the audience several key principles and basic information about sex offender–specific treatment as a foundation for much of the subsequent material that will be covered in this training.

Learning Activity: At the beginning of this section, there is a brief learning activity designed to encourage the training participants to introduce themselves.

Sex Offender–Specific Treatment Outcome Research

Subject Matter: This section provides information about research findings pertaining to the effectiveness of sex offender–specific treatment. The complexities and difficulties in measuring treatment effectiveness are explicated. The fundamental question “Does sex offender treatment work?” is addressed by reviewing several studies of recidivism rates of groups of sex offenders who obtained treatment compared to groups that were untreated. Together, they provide a compelling argument for sex offender–specific treatment for most types of sex offender populations.

Learning Activity: There are no learning activities in this section.

Elements of Sex Offender–Specific Treatment

Subject Matter: This section goes into some detail in providing a framework for thinking about sex offender–specific treatment. It particularly deals directly with a topic of great interest to those involved in community supervision—addressing offender denial. It also covers techniques for addressing cognitive distortions with respect to consent to sexual activity, and speaks to increasing victimization awareness and the steps that follow disclosure of a full sexual history. Additionally, participants are introduced to the four domains of treatment: sexual interests, distorted attitudes, interpersonal functioning, and behavior management. The use of medication is also discussed, as are ethical practice standards, and therapist characteristics associated with offender success.

Learning Activity: Learning activities in this section provide participants with an opportunity to practice methods of responding to cognitive distortions. In addition, participants are introduced to specific relapse prevention methods and develop examples of how supervision officers, as “external supervision enhancers,” can support relapse prevention.

A National Perspective on the Current State of Practice

Subject Matter: The material in this section is based on a survey conducted by the Safer Society Foundation, Inc., entitled: Sex Offender Treatment Practice Patterns in the U.S. and Canada, North American Survey of Sexual Abuser Treatment and Models Summary Data, 2000 (published in 2001). It provides an overview of the scope of community and institutional treatment programs for adults, adolescents and children—by gender. It also describes some trends in methods of treatment and treatment tools.

Learning Activity: This section of the training provides an opportunity for participants to discuss their own observations about trends in treatment availability and approaches to treatment in their own jurisdiction.

What to Look for in a Treatment Provider

Subject Matter: This section addresses desirable qualifications and traits of sex offender–specific treatment providers. Additionally, suggestions are made for probation and parole officers to assist them in locating appropriate mental health professionals who are qualified to treat sex offenders.

Learning Activity: This brief section of the training provides a case scenario that allows participants to strategize about the information that might be exchanged between supervision agents, treatment providers, and others in the context of a collaborative approach to sex offender management.