Psychosexual Assessments Sex Offender Treatment
Psycho-sexual Evaluations typically are conducted at the request of a court/attorney/parent as a result of allegations of sexual behaviors that pose a risk or threat to family members or the community. This assessment is also used in criminal cases for determining level of risk for re-offending behavior and recommendations for treatment.
Generally speaking, psychosexual evaluations are designed to identify the following:
- Level of risk for sexual and non–sexual recidivism;
- Recommended types and intensity of interventions that will be most beneficial, including level of care (e.g., community versus more secure placement);
- The specific dynamic risk factors or criminogenic needs to be targeted through interventions;
- Amenability to interventions;
- Responsivity factors that may impact engagement in and response to interventions; and
- Strengths and protective factors relative to the individual, as well as those that exist within family, peer, and other community support systems.
Conversely, psychosexual evaluations should not be used for any of the following purposes:
- Determining guilt or innocence (which is well outside of the scope and boundaries of the mental health professional’s role);
- Identifying whether an individual is or is not a “sex offender” (which is not an appropriate referral question, because no specific type of assessment or set of assessment tools is designed for making this determination); or
- Concluding whether an adult or juvenile meets the “profile” of a sex offender (which does not exist; research consistently demonstrates the diversity of adults and juveniles who have committed sex offenses).
Ideally, psychosexual evaluations are conducted pre–sentence or disposition and post–conviction or adjudication as a means of assisting judges and other interested parties with making well–informed disposition determinations. When conducted prior to the official ruling or finding by the trier–of–fact, several ethical and other controversies may arise. Included among these concerns are the potential for the defendant’s self–incrimination pertaining to current allegations, the possibility of additional charges being pursued because of disclosures of previously undetected offenses, and the introduction of overly prejudicial information that undermines the presumption of innocence or that otherwise influences the court’s finding.
In a limited number of circumstances, some of these concerns may be potentially lessened, such as when the adult or juvenile admits to the allegations or agrees to the evaluation on the advice of counsel, when all parties agree to a pre–plea evaluation and agree to follow any recommendations as part of a plea negotiation process, or when the prosecution agrees not to file additional charges based on information disclosed during a pre–plea evaluation. Nonetheless, psychosexual evaluations are maximally useful and less subject to controversy when conducted following a conviction or adjudication.
The evaluation process includes 3 to 4 hours of interviews with the referred individual and several specialized tests administered along with self-report scales the individual will fill out either at an appointment or in between visits. A flat fee rather than an hourly rate is charged so that the cost is known and paid for up front. The fee for a psychosexual assessment is $2100.
Sex offender treatment is a serious and encouraging process which focuses on learning strategies for not repeating abusive behavior; and being accountable and taking responsibility for harm done. For the majority of adults and juveniles who have committed a sexual offense, treatment significantly reduces the future risk of re-offending. Treatment does not offer amnesty or excuses for abusive acts, nor is it intended to punish or humiliate participants. A central focus of treatment is to help an individual create a better life for him/herself by developing their strengths while managing risk.
Participants address personal accountability, relapse prevention, and healthy relationships. Treatment is typically offered separately for males and females and adolescents. Group treatment is conducted on a weekly basis.
The goals for the person in treatment may include:
- Identify his/her own specific risk factors and develop a plan for preventing abuse in the future.
- Recognize and decrease the use of manipulative behavior patterns.
- Address denial and accept full responsibility for harmful behaviors, past and present.
- Understand the impact of harmful behaviors on self and others.
- Develop healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors.
- Explore the impact of one’s own childhood victimization if and when appropriate.
The length of the group involvement varies depending on the progress the person in treatment makes. Treatment is not complete until the person changes his or her behavior and makes safe and healthy decisions. For those who are mandated to attend treatment, a timeframe for treatment may be established as part of that requirement. The groups are considered open groups. This means that new group members can begin at any time versus having to wait for a new group to start, which is referred to as a closed group.
Group members are expected to maintain confidentiality. What is shared in group is to stay in group. The therapist is also bound by confidentiality except in the following circumstances:
- You are a danger to yourself and threaten to harm yourself, or you threaten to harm another specific person
- You disclose something that a therapist is required to report (e.g., child abuse, child sexual assault, and elder or vulnerable adult abuse).
- You have waived your rights to privilege by giving consent in writing to limited disclosure.
- Records or therapist may be subpoenaed by a court.