Professionals’ self-care

Working with people who have sexually offended can be difficult and demanding. It can also have an impact on our health and well-being. Here is some information on the possible impact and advice on how to manage it.

It’s important to remember:

  • People don’t feel bad all of the time.
  • Probably, over time, all of us experience some sort of negative impact but…MOST OF US RECOVER.

Professionals have reported the following when working with sexual offenders:

Cognitive changes:

  • Increased difficulty making decisions (Bird Edmunds, 1997)
  • Intrusive visual imagery about sexual violence (Jackson et al., 1997)
  • Ruminating over offence details (Turner, 1992)
  • Doubts about competence (Ellerby et. al., 1993)
  • Increased cynicism and suspicion of others (Farrenkopf, 1992)

Emotional changes:

  • Decreased sensitivity and dulling of emotion (Farrenkopf, 1992)
  • Feelings of anger, frustration, disillusionment, depression, inadequacy and guilt (Ellerby et al., 1993)
  • Heightened anxiety and fear (Jackson et al., 1993)
  • Increased feelings of helplessness (Bird Edmunds, 1997)

Behavioural changes:

  • Sleep disturbance, increased alcohol/drug use, increased absenteeism (Bird Edmunds, 1997)
  • Deceased sense of humour (Farrenkopf, 1992)
  • Avoidance of physical contact with children (Turner, 1992)
  • Increased general irritability (Bird Edmunds, 1997)
  • Depersonalising clients (Hill, 1995)

Professionals can also find that unwanted thoughts can interfere with their own sexual relationships through the following:

  • Reduced interest in sex
  • Reduction in sexual behaviour
  • Avoidance of sexual behaviour
  • Distraction during sex (Ellerby et al., 1993)
  • Impotence
  • Intrusive sexual imagery (Turner, 1992)

References:

  • Edmunds, S. B. (1997). The personal impact of working with sex offenders. In S. B. Edmunds (Ed.), Impact: Working with sexual abusers (pp. 11-29). Brandon, VT: Safer Society Press.
  • Ellerby, L. (1997). Impact on clinicians: Stressors and providers of sex-offender treatment. . In S. B. Edmunds (Ed.), Impact: Working with sexual abusers(pp. 51-60). Brandon, VT: Safer Society Press.
  • Farrenkopf, T. (1992). What Happens to Facilitators who Work with Sex Offenders. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 16, 217–23.
  • Hill, J.K. (1995). Countertransference in conflict: One client or two? Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 23, 105-116.
  • Jackson, K. E., Holzman, C., Barnard, T., & Paradis, C. (1997). Working with sex offenders: The impact on practitioners. In S. B. Edmunds (Ed.), Impact: Working with sexual abusers (pp. 61-73). Brandon, VT: Safer Society Press.
  • Turner, C. (1992). The experience of staff conducting the Core Program. Unpublished MSc Thesis, University of London.
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