The following are brief explanations of techniques often found in the
literature regarding the treatment of sexual offenders. If you have others
that you would like to see listed here, please contact me with a reference
to the work and a brief explanation of the technique.
Aversive stimulus is used to reduce deviant behavior.
Pairing of deviant urges with negative consequences on a cognitive level.
The offender is asked to imagine an offense scenario creating an aroused
state, and then an aversive situation (consequence) is introduced to create
negative responses (decreased arousal) to the preferred scenario.
Assisted Covert Sensitization
This technique is similar to covert sensitization, however the aversive
situation will incorporate a foul smell into the imagined scenario. In
addition to imagined odors, the use of a foul smelling substance (smelling
salt, decaying meat) may also be introduced creating a more aversive
Minimal Arousal Conditioning
In this technique, the aversive stimulus is introduced before arousal is
achieved by the offender.
Aversive Behavior Rehearsal
Indicated for those offenders who become aroused by the reaction of their
victims (such as exhibitionists), this technique involves offenders
performing their preferred offense to therapeutic staff. The staff is
instructed not to respond to the offense, and the offender becomes
conditioned not to become aroused by the offense behavior.
Rather than relying on an offender's mental image of an offense scenario,
stimuli (such as videos) may be shown in an attempt to demonstrate aversive
consequences of criminal behavior.
Rather than using consequences of behavior as a means for change,
encouraging positive behavior can also be used for treatment purposes.
Social Skills Training
Social skills training involves educating offenders to interact with others
appropriately, interrupting the offense cycle. Social skills training has
been challenged in the literature because there are those who believe this
technique only serves to teach the offender what to say in order to complete
treatment. This may be even more damaging if the offender is psychopathic.
Alternative Behavior Completion
Creating scenarios where the offender chooses to resist the urge to commit
an offense and building upon the success of making a positive decision. In
narrative therapy, there is a technique called "unique outcomes" where the
client is asked to externalize the problem and find ways to defeat the
feeling or behavior.
The use of the following techniques can be employed to assist offenders in
learning new ways to control their urges of committing deviant crimes.
The plethysmograph measures volume changes of the penis, and is often used
as an assessment of deviant arousal in offenders. Plethysmographic
biofeedback allows the offender to reduce his arousal to deviant thoughts or
images with visual cues that indicate when arousal is increasing or
Fantasies play a major role in the commission of serial sexual crimes, and
changing the themes of these fantasies from deviant to non-deviant is often
employed as a therapy technique. By changing from deviant to non-deviant
themes, the goal is to condition the offender to become aroused to
consensual scenarios. In another technique called satiation, the offender
masturbates to ejaculation using non-deviant fantasies, and then continues
to masturbate while fantasizing of deviant scenarios.
Sexual Impulse Control Training
This technique asks the offender to begin masturbating to deviant fantasies
and then cease before ejaculation or to become aroused using some visual
stimuli and refrain from sexual contact or masturbation. This technique is
designed to condition the offender to control his sexual impulses.
Restructuring Cognitive Distortions
Cognitive distortions are thinking errors committed by offenders to
rationalize, minimize or justify their actions. Sex offender therapy groups
often work well with cognitive distortions because all offenders do not
share the same distortions, and will confront one another.
Relapse prevention involves exploring events or thoughts that may lead to
(trigger) offense behaviors and later attempting to discover ways the
offender can avoid or interrupt the offense cycle before it begins.
Assisting the offender in understanding offenses from the victim's
perspective may prevent the offender from viewing the victim as an object.
If this is successful, future offenses may be prevented because the offender
will consider the damage to the victim and interrupt the offense cycle.