10. Methods of treatment
The most common type of treatment available is sex offender treatment provided by clinics and university departments that work in concert with the criminal justice system. Since most participants are offenders whose attendance is court mandated, the approach is adversarial rather than therapeutic.37 The singular purpose of sex-offender treatment is to prevent re-offending and involves the following components:38
- Reduction of sexual attraction to minors is attempted through behavioral methods such as aversion therapy, developed in the 1930's to eliminate homosexuality. The goal is to associate attraction to minors with boredom, revulsion, fear, shame, or physical pain.
- Plethysmographs (devices connected to the genitals) and polygraphs (lie detectors) are used to monitor sexual feelings and behavior.
- Cognitive and relapse prevention methods are used to change incorrect thinking, eliminate or control aggressive attitudes and urges, develop social skills, and teach concepts about sexuality.
- Sex-drive reducing drugs may be administered.
Studies of the effectiveness of behaviorial methods to change sexual feelings suffer from serious methodological flaws, and have led to inconsistent results. The few well-constructed studies have found little evidence that they are effective.39
An alternative for those who voluntarily seek treatment is provided by independent sexual addiction recovery programs. They operate on the belief that minor-attraction is one type of addiction, and often use 12-step programs modeled on alcohol addiction recovery. These programs attempt to help members learn to control their sexual feelings, avoid temptation, and/or develop appropriate relationships with adults. MHAMic was unable to locate published studies on their effectiveness.
Finally, there are a small number of therapists and counselors who describe approaches which attempt to address issues of self-understanding, the development of a positive self-concept, the maintenance of healthy relationships, and the discovery of ways of coping with one’s sexuality and society’s reaction to it.40 There are no published studies on their effectiveness.
For more information, see the section on this site about treatment.
38. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1999*; Center for Sex Offender Management, 1999*; Crawford, 1981; Hall, 1996; Langevin, 1983; Maletzky, 1991.
39. Council on Scientific Affairs, 1987; Freund, 1981; Hall, 1996; Langevin, 1983; McConaghy, 1999.
40. Gieles, 2001; Van Naerssen, 1990; Van Zessen, 1990.
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