Council on Sex Offender Treatment Treatment of Sex Offenders - Difference Between Sex Offender Treatment and Psychotherapy

The most prominent difference is that the primary client in sex offender treatment is the community and the goal of treatment is NO MORE VICTIMS. With sex offender treatment, community safety takes precedence over any conflicting consideration.

Sex offender treatment is different than traditional psychotherapy in that treatment is mandated structured, victim centered, and the treatment provider imposes values and limits. Providers cannot remain neutral because of the risk of colluding with, adding to, and/or contributing to the offender’s denial. In sex offender treatment, confidentiality is not maintained due to the enormous public safety issues. Because secrecy is the lifeblood of sexual offending, treatment providers cannot guarantee confidentiality. Treatment providers must not solely rely on self-report because sex offenders see trust as abuseable. Treatment providers rely on polygraphs to verify information given by the offender. Sex offender treatment is offense specific and focused on the deviant behavior.

Sex offender treatment requires the offender to face the consequences of their behavior on their victims and society. Sex offenders are expected in treatment to accept responsibility for their sex offending behaviors. Unlike sex offender treatment, in traditional psychotherapy the client voluntarily seeks therapy and is motivated. Goal setting is a joint responsibility with the client having the final say. Therapists remain neutral and do not impose their values and limits. Confidentiality and trust are maintained and are essential to the therapeutic process.

Additionally, sex offender treatment mandates an approach unfamiliar to most mental health professionals because of the substantial control a therapist must exercise over their client due to the concern for community protection. Due to this specialization, only a practitioner licensed under the Occupations Code, Chapter 110 as a Licensed or Affiliate Sex Offender Treatment Provider is qualified through training and experience to conduct the assessment and provide the appropriate treatment for sex offenders in Texas.

Last updated April 5, 2010