Ready…..Or Not?

Recently I attended a group therapy session for male sex offenders. Each member of the group was on parole for a sex offense and was court ordered to attend therapy.  I was invited to participate in the session by the regular therapist who was present.  Having conducted hundreds of groups over many years I was eager to attempt one of my own tried and proven methodologies.  After a round of small talk consisting of updates provided by all clients I began to explore sex offense specific issues.  It is a common practice of mine to have all clients present their case to their peers for review.  Each client is afforded the opportunity to explain his offense, in some detail, and receive feedback, in the form of questions and comments, from group members and from the therapist.  These reviews are not time limited.  One of the benefits derived from this approach is that it allows offenders to discuss their attitudes about their offense with less concern over possible negative judgments from their reviewers.  I called on a client who I’ll call Jeb to begin the exercise. Jeb’s initial response was that he couldn’t remember what his offense was nor could he recall information (gender, age, relative or not, etc.) about his victim. Being familiar with his case I jogged his memory in an effort to encourage participation. At that point he flatly refused to participate, saying “Just take me back to prison”. I immediately informed him that if he did not comply with my request at the next group session I would request a judicial status conference and have him explain his position to a judge. In the days following the session the regular therapist had conversations with several group members who felt that Jeb should be given more time to get “comfortable” with the group. That opinion was shared by the therapist. I disagreed. I feel that clients should make attempts to comply with requests for participation even tho’ the process may be painful in the initial stages of treatment. Sex offenders generally pose risk to the community and such risks should be addressed ASAP. The question is should we wait for offenders to be ready to engage therapy or should we (therapists) insist that they comply with the requirement that they participate immediately? Should we move forward whether they are ready…..or not?

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