Traditionally, sex offender therapy has been based on cognitive behavioral therapy models in which confrontation is used to reach clinical goals. The majority of juvenile sexual offender programs have generally adhered to a traditional adult sex offender model. Interventions include teaching the sexual abuse cycle, empathy training, anger management, social and interpersonal skills training, journaling, assertiveness training, restructuring, sex education, and teaching relapse prevention.
But even though these juveniles have committed sexual offenses, they are not simply “sexual offenders”. Many of these youth have a history of non-sex offenses. Findings from most studies suggest that multiple risk factors are linked with sexual offending. These include individual factors, family factors, parental problems, peer relations, and school performance (Ronis and Borduin, 2003). The results suggest that sexual offending and nonsexual offending are linked with these multiple common risk factors. Few of the determinants of juvenile sexual offending are addressed solely by prevailing treatment models such as cognitive-behavioral approaches and do little to promote the youth’s competencies in their life.
One intervention that has been shown to work with delinquent and violent youth is Multisystemic Therapy (Bordin, Henggeler, Blaske, & Stein 1990). The results of this study shows that after a three year follow up MST was significantly more effective at preventing juvenile sexual offending (recidivism was 12.5% for MST vs. 75% for individual counseling) and preventing other criminal offending (25% vs. 50%). Outcomes after a 9-year follow-up showed that MST was significantly more effective at preventing juvenile sexual offending (recidivism was 12.5% for MST vs. 41.7% for other services), and for preventing other criminal offending (29.2% vs. 62.5%).
Multisystemic therapy is a family based therapy that is similar to Functional Family Therapy. This approach is designed to address the multiple factors that are associated with delinquent behavior, including peer, family and community influences. The primary emphasis is placed on the dynamics and structure within the family unit. The youth and their families learn to effectively become autonomous as the treatment plans are developed collaboratively between the family and the treatment provider in the youth’s natural environment. This in effect will help to integrate the offender and the family into the community rather than further marginalize them.
Using the TIME Family Program, adaptations are made to traditional MST and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat juvenile sexual offenders. Some of the goals would include reducing family denial and increasing their acceptance of their role in the offense, evaluating and addressing the offender’s grooming strategies, helping the family to develop a plan to ensure safety and prevent offender relapse, assess victimization issues within the family and determine treatment needs, and creating interventions that target peer relations. The family members identify these goals with the assistance of the therapist. The therapist and the family members then collaboratively design and agree to interventions that will be carried out by the family and TIME staff mentors. Monthly or bi-monthly reports are used to update the family progress toward goals. The family is given a copy of the Initial Service Plan and the updated Service Plan to remind them of interventions that each one is responsible for and the progress they have made to date.
The therapeutic supports are integrated from empirical modalities such as structural family therapy, strategic family therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and parent training. Family empowerment is emphasized to increase family structure and decrease child involvement with delinquent peers. Community resources are identified and the family is encouraged to use them.
Traditional cognitive behavioral based sex offender groups are utilized to allow the participants the opportunity to embark on the change process with other individuals who can give feedback and understand their situation. The groups are facilitated by a certified sex offender treatment provider.
The TIME Family Program utilizes group family therapy and considers it to be an essential part of our program. Though no significant differences have been found between families in terms of the parent’s employment level or occupation, however, several characteristics have been associated with families of adolescent sex offenders (Bishof, Stith, & Wilson, 1992; Blaske, Borduin, Henggeler, & Mann, 1989). These characteristics include low personal warmth and family unity, high rates of parental difficulties including frequent family violence, substance abuse, physical abuse, and family disorganization and instability. Bennet and Marshall go on to note that these families generally have more negative communication, low emotional bonding, and lower levels of independence. TIME family group therapies have specifically structured guidelines to address family structure and dysfunctional relationships to empower the parents to work through their own issues.
When the youth are considered holistically , the overarching goal is to promote healthy, well adjusted youth. Rather than focusing only on their sex offending behaviors, an overall wellness among the youth is promoted. When the family is involved they are empowered to promote and maintain healthy change in their own family systems. When changes are made in the youth’s natural environment the community becomes a place of strength and positive influence.
Our program involves one Masters level therapist and one mentor working with each family in the family’s home. The therapist will work 3 to 5 hours with each family, utilizing individual and family therapy. The mentor will work 5 to 15 hours with the youth in the home and community, helping him or her to reach the goals set forth in the Plan of Care. Each youth will attend a weekly sex offender group facilitated by a certified sex offender treatment provider. Each family will attend a weekly family group session facilitated by a masters level therapist. Services are expected to last 16 weeks.