What does treatment involve?

Not a lot has been written about treatment for non-offenders who are concerned about their sexual thoughts of children. It is expected that part of the reason for this is that many individuals do not feel able to seek help due to the guilt and fear associated with self-reporting.

However, there has been much research on treatment for individuals who have gone on to commit sexual offences against children. These programmes are designed to address the risk factors that are associated with sexual offence reconviction; in other words, they are designed to treat the problems believed to be associated with committing sexual offences.

For these reasons, it seems likely that the treatment targets of these programmes would also be of some benefit to non-offenders. Research indicates that four broad risk factor areas are related to sexual offence recidivism (reoffending):

  • Sexual interests
  • Attitudes
  • Relationships
  • Self-management (coping and problem solving)

Not all individuals who commit sexual offences have problems in each of these areas. The assessment process looks at how the different aspects interact, and considers a person’s strengths as well as their vulnerabilities.

For example, a person might have a very strong sexual preference for young children, but firmly believe that acting on such interests would be wrong. Furthermore, they may have people in whom they can confide and receive support. They would therefore have some strengths in the areas of ‘Attitudes’ and ‘Relationships’ to moderate the potential problems in ‘Sexual interests’.

Treatment programmes also aim to help the client work out positive goals towards achieving a more satisfying life. This involves helping the individual identify and develop the skills they need in order to achieve these goals. Treatment programmes also seek to improve the individual’s understanding of themselves and their behaviour; there is a strong emphasis on helping the person identify the thought processes and emotional responses associated with harmful behaviour, so as to address any faulty or distorted beliefs, to enhance problem solving skills and to develop positive coping strategies.

Much of what have been described above is explored within Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which you can read more about here.

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