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Men's Group Therapy
GROUP TREATMENT PROGRAMS FOR CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE & CHILD EXPLOITATION MATERIAL OFFENDING
This community-based specialist group treatment program for men addresses the issues relating to Problematic Internet Use (PIU) and/or charges of Child Exploitation Material (CEM) and internet crime as well as the treatment of those who have sexually offended against a child or are at risk of doing so.
The 20-30 session program is designed to cover victim empathy training, childhood issues, relapse prevention strategies, and positive sexuality. Internet and child pornography offending are also dealt with as preventive interventions. The program is based on a distillation of the SafeCare treatment program and the research into problematic internet use (PIU) as described in Elliott & Beech (2009) Understanding online child pornography use: Applying sexual offence theory to internet offenders.
The group has its origins in the SafeCare Men’s Treatment program, which operated between 1989 and 2009. SafeCare Inc provided a family counselling service for all family members where child sexual abuse had occurred or was at risk of occurring. 700 families were treated over the 20 years it operated. It was clear from the continual requests for help received by Ms Chamarette, (as the former Clinical Director of SafeCare Inc) after SafeCare’s closure, that access to treatment for this problem was vital for those affected and their families, and so she set up this new group program as an adjunct to her private practice.
The first group treatment program commenced on 7 January 2010 in Fremantle and due to the high demand, it was decided to offer the program also through Shenton Park Psychology Services, the private practice of Mr. Peter Dunlop. There have been 2 groups running each year since that time.
COURSE CONTENT AND THERAPEUTIC APPROACH
Module 1: INTRODUCTION –Psycho-Educational approach
The participants are assisted to recognize the sexually abusive nature of their behavior in relation to children and to accept responsibility for it. The group also provides support for the men, most of whom are facing major upheavals in their lives. The topics covered include:- What is Child Sexual abuse and why Internet offending and viewing child pornography are treated as indicators of risk to children; sexual addiction; cognitive distortions – e.g., rationalizations, minimization, and denials; factors which may have led to the offending, the effects of sexual abuse on victims and other family members as well as coping skills needed during a crisis. This module draws on Finkelhor’s Precondition Model of Sexual Offending.
Module 2: CHILDHOOD ISSUES – Psychodynamic/Developmental approach
This module recognizes that many men who have offended have themselves had a traumatic or damaging childhood that has blocked their emotional development. We believe it is vital for men to heal from the effects of their own childhood trauma if they are to fully accept responsibility for their actions. This module enables offenders to examine childhood issues that have impacted on their lives and also teaches them skills to help restore the inner child, enabling them to mature emotionally.
Module 3: EMPATHY –Psychosocial/RoleModeling – Gestalt, Art and Drama
The work in this module is primarily experiential and builds on the self-knowledge gained in Childhood Issues. Participants are introduced to the concepts of personal rights and boundaries using aspects of gestalt therapy to elicit some of the painful feelings and emotions which may have been suppressed. Accessing their own painful emotions from childhood is essential for the development of an empathic understanding of children in general and victims of child sexual abuse in particular.
Module 4: RELAPSE PREVENTION /POSITIVE SEXUALITY – Mainly CBT
The relapse prevention and positive sexuality module initially focus on identifying more clearly the risk factors associated with offending and on developing strategies to avoid high-risk situations in the future. It has a very practical approach that provides participants with greater confidence and skills in preventing re-offending. The second part of the module focuses on developing positive, sexual relationships and healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors.
Beech, A. R. & Fisher, D. D. (2002). The rehabilitation of child sex offenders. Australian Psychologist, Vol. 37 (3), pp. 206-214.
Elliott, I A & Beech A R (2009) Understanding online child pornography use: Applying sexual offense theory to internet offenders. Aggression and Violent Behaviour 14,180-193
Ward, T. & Stewart, C. A. (2003). The treatment of sex offenders: risk management and good lives. Professional Psychology: Research and practice. Vol 34 (4) pp. 1-8.
Also see: www.safecare.org.au (author)
I now know that I can live sensibly. The group was an important support for me.
Peter, 55, long-distance truck driver
I’m now able to use the internet without any problems, even when I have sexual lust, and I don’t visit any porno sites. I look at harmless stuff like computer topics or sport.
Nowadays, when I get frustrated, I’m able to deal with it on my own. I have a look at what has happened, why I’m frustrated if I’ve reacted incorrectly. This change has affected everything: work, my private life, my hobbies. I know that I’m responsible for my actions. I can now see my strengths, whereas I used to only see my weaknesses, and I can control myself. When I realize I’m coming into a dangerous situation, I leave it. That has happened to me once, in the sauna. So, I stood up, went and showered, and left. End of story. I was proud of myself afterward because, like I said, I’m the one with the responsibility. I need to take on the responsibility – a child or young person can’t do that.
Christian, 43, civil servant
I can feel my sexual preference just as before, but it’s no longer horrifying and has lost a large amount of its significance. Since I’m now aware of my responsibility, I feel a lot more certain in my interactions with young people and know where to get help if I have the feeling that I’m losing control. But that sort of situation hasn’t come up again, as my urge for sex with young people has let up enormously as a result of my newly won convictions.
I’ve changed my career quite a lot and now work only with adults. To my surprise, I don’t really feel sad about having given up on being a teacher, although I had long thought of it as my dream career. Rather, I enjoy my new job a lot. All my friends now know about me and almost all of them are supporting me on my path and stand at my side, which has been a very good experience.
The most important thing is that my wife is back at my side and that I have my family back. Of course, there are still some uncomfortable moments, like when we are reminded of our period of separation. Or when the conversation turns to the topic of my sexual preference and I can sense from my wife the fear that it still causes her. Yet these darker moments are few and far between and, to my amazement, I realize again and again that I am very happy. In the last few years, I have changed so fundamentally. I would never have thought it possible. My self-confidence has grown enormously, I am more balanced and resilient in the face of stress.
Steven 45, teacher
A year ago, I told my parents about it. After my girlfriend found out, they had to find out, too. At first it came as a shock, especially for my mother. For my father, it was perhaps not quite as bad. But our relationship was different for a while, disturbed in some way. They weren’t able to appreciate it the right way, didn’t understand that I didn’t need to grab every young girl, like every time a young girl appeared among our relatives or friends that they didn’t need to keep me away from them. It has since gotten better. They told me that I’m still their son. It seemed very important to them to tell me that.
Ralph, 38, director
I spoke with my ex-girlfriend and a few close friends about this therapy. Their reactions were very surprising to me, as they didn’t react negatively at all. Of course, it bothered them and they weren’t sure how to handle it. Some of them have children of their own. At the same time, I noticed that they trust me. That they know that I would never do something to their kids. All my friends who I’ve spoken to about it – close friends – remain my friends.
The most important part of the therapy for me was drawing a line between my fantasies and responsibility for my sexual behaviour. I can’t help it that I find children arousing, but what I can do is to not have any sort of sexual contact with them.
John, 29, media manager
My parents know about it, some of my grandparents do, too, and so do my closest friends and a few people from my organization. It was very important to me that they know about it. I wanted to make it clear to them, on the one hand, why it was sometimes so difficult for me, either to babysit within the family or, for example, to go swimming in public places in the summer. I couldn’t explain that to them at the time, and I often got funny looks. But now they’ve accepted it and are trying to let me go my own way.
Alex, 24, student
At the end of the therapy, I had a new attitude to life. I am surer of myself and have acquired the strength to go through life responsibly. I’ve learned to cope with my feelings and how I can very consciously protect myself and, most of all, children. From this recognition and the acceptance of who I am, from my newly learned awareness of my responsibility and, not least of all, through the strength and footing in life that my family gives to me, I’ve finally got the courage to face life and the satisfaction to be able to say: I am a happy person and can live a contented life.
Manuel, 33, computer scientist
After the end of the therapy itself, the follow-up group has been a very helpful offer for staying in touch and keeping focused on my goals. Prior to the therapy, I couldn’t imagine being able to lead a normal, satisfying life with this sexual preference. In the course of the therapy, it became clear to me that this is possible. I no longer judge or hate myself for my sexual interest, because I know I can’t help it. But with this sexual preference comes the huge responsibility of not doing harm to anyone. This duty will stay with me for my whole life