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Update on Adolescent Sex Offenders

Anna C. Salter

Working with Sex Offenders

Therapeutic Interactions & Techniques

Purpose of Treatment

Reduce recidivism? Have a better life for the offender?

Purpose of Treatment
Reduce recidivism

Any behavior that is self-destructive or has serious social consequences would be the most central initial target. (Kanfer & Goldstein, 1991)


Therapists represent world of authority Antisocial teens and adults not accepted the social contract


Teens Adults

Not entrenched Getting older

Teens View of Adults

Dont understand Focus too much on responsibilities: not enough on fun Exaggerate risks Obsess on remote dangers Dont understand the teen is immortal Just wants to berate them and make them feel bad

Delinquent Teens

of the previous Defiance, not alliance Prone to power struggles Do not identify Share familys view of therapists

It can be challenging to work with teens. Euphemism Verbally provocative Uncontrollably violent

Tightrope Walking

Represent norms of law-abiding world Build a working relationship

Therapists Cannot . . .

Fail to report infractions Collude in blaming the victim Wink at technical violations, e.g., alcohol and drugs Expect reciprocity

Basis of Therapeutic Relationship

Warmth? Empathy? Self-Disclosure?

I tell my clients that I do not operate on a trust basis. Trust is whats abusable. . . Feeling confident about them can be dangerous. (Knopp, 1984)

If trust them . . .

polygraph No GPS No drug testing No verifying info No collateral supervision No checking in with employer, family, individual therapist, etc.

Trust Undermines Abstinence

Removes external controls

Basis of Therapeutic Alliance

Fairness Goodwill

Three Rules of Sex Offender Treatment

Verify Verify


More important to teens Gross and elementary (One size fits all)

What to Do?

Teen A

Calms down when sent to a time-out for inappropriate behavior Escalates in time-out Calms down if left in group

Teen B

Different penalties seen as unfair

What If . . .

Whats good for individual

Is seen as unfair by group?

Whats At Stake?
Therapists represent authority Anti-social teens do not accept authority Group towards or away to an acceptance of legitimate authority

Nobody accepts arbitrary authority No therapeutic alliance with unfair authority

Acceptance of Authority in Form of Therapists, Teachers, Parents, Coaches

Precedes Abstract Acceptance of Authority

What to Do

Always consider groups view of whats fair Never dismiss it as unimportant Always monitor where you stand on fairness issue Try to come up with solutions accepted as fair


Assess who has grievance-based thinking Understand they project unfairness onto you Always point to, same rules for everyone Put program rules in writing

Grievance Thinking in Adults

I started remembering everything. Everything. The death, the pain. I used to get mad. I still do. When I hear people laugh I get mad. Why is life so much fun for you and not for me?.

Leroys Response

All this was is battery. I got railroaded.

Attacked Officers in Jail

That incident in the county jail it wasnt personal. It wasnt one of those things that officer so and so is working today whoever was working it was going to happen. . . You go into that situation knowing . . . Just like if you go in a robbery with a gun, you dont think you are going to kill someone. But you know you need to take the gun in the robbery because you might need to kill someone. Of course thats wrong. But you dont care. Why should I care? Thats why you need to get to the point where you care.

Grievance Thinking

Much of the ruminating on past injustices Unable to see authority in any other light See ambiguous and even benign incidents as malevolent

Principles of Therapeutic Alliance

Right Distance

Not too close; not too far Never changes

Risk of Empathy

Wants to please therapist to hold his/her regard Doesnt want to disappoint therapist by admitting hes been lying Wants to look good in front of therapist Disappoints therapist and therapist withdraws

Too close

Client fakes good Client disappoints therapist

Too far

Therapist angry Withdraws

The Right Distance

Will help client, if client lets him/her Understand clients behavior reflects on client, not on therapist Therapist wishes client well, but does not base self-esteem on clients behavior Therapeutic narcissism under control

No Yo-Yo Therapists

Warm and disclosing in one session Distant and judgmental in the next

Working with Lost Souls & Predators

Lost Souls


Lost Souls

identification with


of social skills





of Victims




Treatment of Lost Souls

Anti-confrontation Raise



positive life style (New Me)

skills/Intimacy training goals


Treatment of Predators



on avoidance goals (Relapse prevention)






right distance



axe to grind stake in proving client a predator over-invested in believing he is low




for the best; accepts possibility of the worse


Accepts need for external control Always working towards internal control



right distance



Upfront & Honest

Will tell you first Discuss in advance what testimony/report will be If consulting/meeting on their case, tell them in advance

Client Dependent on Therapist? Whose Needs Are Met?

Praise and Blame Both make client look for external validation

Therapist as center of spokes on a wheel? Therapist praises? Therapist confronts? Therapist judges? Therapist engineers a setting, exercises and group culture which fosters change

Symmetrical and Asymmetrical Relationships

Most relationships are symmetrical Psychopaths form asymmetrical relationships Anger, hostility can be defused in nonpsychopaths by therapist behavior

Relaxed body language when challenging Use of humor: Riddle me this, batman Giving choices

Side-stepping power struggles I only know one thing; Im not going to jail no matter what you decide.

Setting Up a Prosocial Group Culture

Group Leaders



Overt Group Leader


claim for leadership Older More experienced Smarter More dominant Natural leader

Informal Group Leader


open claim for leadership Group members listen Look at him when speaking May confront acknowledged leader May be independent May give sound advice

Both group leaders prosocial Pro-social group culture automatic

One or both antisocial Therapists must intervene

Impact of Group Leaders


group Fail to do homework Teens clown in immature ways Blame victims Collude with other clients denial Disregards group rules


Talk outside of group Engineer group feedback Teens: Supervised time out Warning then probation then dismissal

Teen Groups: On Being a Kid

Need to do something Less reading; more games, exercises

Kids generate answers; are not fed them

Group generates rules Hand out lego, crayons, paper, play dough

Group Rules


too loud No disrupting group One time out pass Watch your language No interrupting

Group Rules

physical fighting No put-downs No homework = no snack Be a decent human being Rules can be added as needed

Challenge or Power Struggle?

Challenge or Confrontation With the therapist With the group With their future With the consequences

Teen believes sex with 7-year-old sister consensual or she would have said no What to do?

Less Useful

Dont she think she might have frozen because she was scared? Gives him right answer If it were me, I might have been thinking . . . Right answer plus therapist views At center of things

Therapeutic Techniques
Modeling Prosocial Poor Little positive effect Massive negative effect

Prosocial Modeling

Treating group members & co-therapists respectfully Always talking about women and children respectfully Always talking about victims respectfully Admitting to a mistake Refraining from complaining or whining Keeping promises

Inappropriate Modeling

Dominating the group & not allowing cotherapist equal air time Looking bored when co-therapist speaking Ignoring co-therapists point and switching topics Sharing personal troubles Blaming administration for unpopular rules Allowing a likeable member to get away with things

Inappropriate Modeling

Breaking promises when convenient Allowing group members to refer to girls as hos Cancelling group frequently Showing up late for group Not prepared for group Constantly looking at watch during group

Therapeutic Techniques
Praise Not too effusive More often than negative reinforcement Must up in offenders who are acting out to keep balance

Therapeutic Techniques

Puts focus on therapist Blurs professional boundaries Allows manipulation and even blackmail by high risk offenders Causes lost souls to take care of therapist

Therapeutic Techniques

Borderline clients lose all boundaries Fosters client comparison with therapist Decreases projection Takes time from client issues

The Funnel
Learning a New Skill

Nonsexual examples Sexual but other sex offenders Relating to their offenses

Boundaries of Developmentally Normative Sexual Behavior