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Characteristics of an Effective Sex Offender Therapist (From Handbook of Sex Offender Treatment, P 69-1 - 69-21, 2011, Barbara K. Schwartz, ed. - See NCJ-243091)

NCJ Number
Yolanda M. Fernandez, Ph.D.; Geris A. Serran, Ph.D.
Date Published
21 pages
This chapter reviews the research on the general characteristics of an effective therapist and considers whether these same characteristics are applicable in treating sexual offenders.
The chapter advises that the training of sex offender therapists must incorporate a process-oriented focus. Research evidence indicates that offenders will be motivated to participate in treatment when therapists adopt a warm and empathic style balanced with a rewarding and directive approach. Therapists working with sexual offenders can increase their effectiveness by modeling prosocial behavior. This means presenting an appropriate coping model to the client. If the therapist makes a mistake or senses that he/she has been ineffective or insensitive in a particular approach, he/she acknowledges this to the group. This reinforces clients' sense of behavioral awareness and the importance of addressing any harm that may be done to others. It is critical, given the diversity of presenting issues and behaviors, that therapists show flexibility. Avoiding excessive structure allows for the therapist to focus more on process issues. It is encouraging that clinicians are beginning to examine process issues in sex offender treatment. Therapists who function in a motivational and positive manner not only have a more optimistic view of treatment, but also facilitate this belief in clients. By emphasizing group process and adopting a positive, motivational approach to treatment, treatment will be more effective. 22 references