Treatment of Sex Offenders


Sex offenders are persons who have been convicted of a sex crime, a delinquent juvenile adjudicated for sex offense, a person adjudicated as a sexually dangerous person or a person who has been released through parole, incarceration, supervision or probation or custody of the Department of Youth Services for adjudication or conviction of a sex offense. The State of Massachusetts has three levels of sex offenders based on the risk they posed to society and their degree of re-offending. Level one sex offenders are individuals who have a low risk of re-offending and pose minimal danger to the people (Kim, Benekos & Merlo, 2016). Level two sex offenders, have a moderate risk of re-offending and pose a moderate degree of danger to society. Level three sex offenders pose a high degree of threat to the people and have the most significant risk of recidivism. Inarguably, sex perpetrators are often viewed by the public, practitioners, and policymakers as a special and unique group of perpetrators who are dire need of special management practices.

Treatment of Sex Offenders

Without a doubt, sex offending is a special kind of crime. In recent years, sex offenders have received considerable attention from both the members of the public and the policymakers as well (Sorrentino et al., 2018). This is all attributed to the profound nature of sex offending and the impact it poses on the public. Sex offenders need therapeutic interventions which are often aimed at reducing the likelihood of recidivism (McGrath et al., 2010). Sexual offending has been recognized as a serious crime which has profound impacts on the victims. As such, treatment of sexual offenders evolved over the past years, and various practice and theoretical treatment models have been established countrywide.

It is imperative to find ways of treating, managing and supervising sex offenders as soon as they are released from prison. Provision of treatment interventions is among the best method of treating and managing sex perpetrators. Sex offender treatment is different than other adult therapies. Indeed, sex offender treatment programs are encouraging process geared towards learning and acquiring specific strategies which will assist the offenders in reducing their rate of re-offending (Sorrentino et al., 2018). For both adult and juvenile who has been adjudicated or convicted of sex crimes, intervention or treatment is offered in a bid to reduce future risks of engaging in a sexual offense. The treatment for sex offenders doesn’t punish or excuse abusive sexual behaviors; however, treatment’s primary focus is rehabilitating the offender to create a better life for themselves, and this is done while maximizing on their strengths but minimizing the risks. This treatment is offered by therapists who have specialized working with both the juvenile and adult sexual offenders.

Typically, sex offender treatment program is based on multiple methods ranging from cognitive-behavioral methods, classical behavioral which are insight oriented and behavioral medication, medical castration, faith-based treatment, intensive supervision, and therapeutic communities. McGrath et al. (2010) allude that in 2008, there were around 1,307 offender specific treatment programs operating in the U.S. these treatment programs were operating in 50 states and the District of Columbia too and 80% of these offender specific treatment programs were community-based. 53, 811 sexual offenders were incorporated into sexual offender programs some of whom their lives changed for the better (McGrath et al., 2010).

Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy

Usually, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is offered and conducted in a group therapy setting. This offender treatment approach is geared towards irrational thoughts and beliefs of sexual offenders that pushes them to engage in antisocial behavior like sexual abusive. Often, cognitive-behavioral therapy has elements designed to help the sexual perpetrators to correct their deviant thought (Kim, Benekos & Merlo, 2016). This is achieved when the offenders practice opportunities to model and partake in prosocial and positive behaviors. For instance, the offenders are advised against the dangers associated with re-offending and the impacts of their behavior on the public. They are dissuaded from their beliefs which force them to engage in rude and antisocial behaviors. This treatment program is specially designed to deal with the irrational beliefs and thoughts of the sexual offenders released into the community. Therapy sessions and other treatment strategies are conducted by professionals trained and versed with sex offender specific interventions.


Psychotherapy treatment models involve all insight-oriented therapies. The insight-oriented therapies can be done either individually or in a group setting. Counseling or psychotherapy programs frequently occur in the form of traditional therapy practices which include talk therapy. Again, the psychotherapy treatment program seeks to explore the underlying causes, thought and beliefs associated with sexual offenses. The counseling treatment programs for sexual offenders are at times either sex offender specific or general offender specific (Hanson & Yates, 2013). Whenever therapists explore the causes and thought related to sexual offending, it becomes easier to treat and rehabilitate the sexual perpetrator into becoming a productive and healthy member in society. The therapists use this treatment approach to talk to the offenders and find out what propels them into engaging in antisocial behaviors and why they engage in such behaviors.

Correctional Intervention Model for Sex Offenders

The correctional intervention model makes use of several principles are essential in the treatment practice, and the principles are geared towards reducing recidivism. These principles are the need, risk and responsivity principles (Yates, 2013). The correctional intervention was initially designed to criminal justice sanctions; however, the model is also applied to treatment, and it has proven successful in treatment than in sanction.

The Risk Principle

This principle holds the view that the intensity of correctional interventions ought to match with the level of risk posed by the sexual offender (Yates, 2013). Treatment needs to be prolonged and applied more frequently. Low levels of interventions should be used to low-risk sexual offenders while high risk levels of interventions should be applied to high risk sexual offenders. This principle determines that treatment is more effective when the risk level is matched to the level of intensity. More contact hours are needed for the treatment model to be effective.

The Need Principle

This is the second principle in the correctional intervention, and it states that the treatment of sexual offenders should target criminogenic needs of the offenders (Yates, 2013). These needs include antisocial lifestyles and sexual deviance. These two factors ate the strongest predictors of recidivism among sexual offenders. Targeting specific and dynamic risk factors leads to reduced recidivism rates. When these risk factors have been analyzed, individualized treatment plans are structured.

The Responsivity Principle

This is the third principle in the effective correctional intervention model which is concerned with the interaction between the treatment and individuals (Yates, 2013). Generally, treatment should be matched to the client. The principle dictates that treatment should match with various individual characteristics. Treatment should be modified according to individual styles, and the ability of the intervention programs to maximize their effectiveness. Incorporating the three principles in the intervention program enables sexual offenders to respond to the treatment accordingly.

Medical Treatment of Sex Offenders

Not so long ago, many attempts have been made to make use of medical treatment models to treat sex offenders and reduce their risk of sex offending programs and recidivism. Medical treatment interventions include methods such as hormonal therapies and surgical castration. More so, surgical castration is solely done on a volunteer basis, and therefore the sex offenders are not forced to engage in this intervention program if they don’t want to (Ireland, Ireland & Birch, 2018). Typically, these intervention approaches incorporate additional psychological treatment methods which advocate that even if the offenders stop taking their hormones, they’ll still have an alternative treatment option.

In recent times, sex offender treatment practices are made up of therapists or other trained and highly skilled professionals who make attempts to get the sex offenders to own up for their sexual behaviors and at the same time address and treat any other underlying disorders which occur quite often. Primarily, the therapists use treatment models to make the sex offenders to acknowledge their wrongdoings (Ireland, Ireland & Birch, 2018). While treating the offenders, the therapists are needed to document the progress of their clients and advice the courts on the level of risk she sex perpetrator poses to the public at large. There are various factors which make a sex offender eligible to participate in a treatment program. These factors include the risk level, seriousness of the sex offense, and availability of the treatment slots and the willingness of the offender to partake in such programs. Frequently, sex offenders receive treatment options as a mandatory requirement of their sentences.

Fundamentally, sex offender treatment programs may occur while the offender is in a secure setting or the community. There are two categories of sexual offender treatment programs. Some are mandatory while others take in the offenders on a volunteer basis. Sex offender treatment programs are at times geared towards addressing general offending behaviors or sexually aggressive behavior. High-risk or violent sexual offenders often receive more extensive treatment options (Ireland, Ireland & Birch, 2018). Sex offender specific treatment options are essential for high-risk sexual offenders. However, due to insufficient resources, sex offender specific treatment is unavailable in some communities, and this makes the sex offenders undergo through generalized sex offender therapies.  When compared to generalized therapies, offender specific treatment therapies are more effective because they provide the necessary treatment vital for the rehabilitation of the offenders.

Many believe that sex offenders cannot be treated; however, the success in the reduction of the recidivism rates attest to the fact that treatment approaches work. The treatment needs of sexual offenders vary with each, and the effectiveness of the intervention approaches on both contextual and individual factors (Hanson & Yates, 2013). Sex offender specific interventions are focused on reducing recidivism, promoting accountability among the offenders, enhancing public safety. Initially, treatment approaches hypothesized that sexual offending was caused by deviant sexual arousal and anger. Early treatment models like neurosurgery and psychotherapy have dimmed to be ineffective while pharmacological interventions regularly proved to be effective in some specific contexts.

The effectiveness of Treatment Programs for Sex Offenders

Research based on the efficacy of the treatment of sex offenders is not as established as that of general offenders. In spite of this, the efficacy of all intervention programs remains tentative. Little evidence is provided regarding the effectiveness of psychological treatment options for adult sex offenders. Similarly, there is little evidence regarding the benefits of multisystemic therapy (MST) on adolescent sex offenders (Hanson & Yates, 2013). Nonetheless, when the sex offenders are integrated into a treatment program that matches with their needs, the intervention programs become more effective. The treatment can either be specific or general depending on the level of the risk of the sexual offense.

In conclusion, the goal of treatment for sex offenders is to reduce recidivism rates, encourage accountability and make the community a safe place for every person. Treatment focuses on developing the strengths of the perpetrator while managing the risk at the same time to make the life of the sex offender much better (Kim, Benekos & Merlo, 2016). Perpetrators partake in sex offense treatment plans to develop healthy sexual behaviors and identify the risk factors and develop a personalized plan which prevents them from re-offending in the future. Treatment programs are often community-based and they an offender is required to attend weekly sessions either individually or in a group setting under the guidance of a therapist or trained professional. Sexual offenses are a public health issue which should not be ignored. Treatment programs for sex offenders work if the therapists can identify the offenders and offer evidence-based interventions.




Hanson, R. K., & Yates, P. M. (2013). Psychological treatment of sex offenders. Current Psychiatry Reports15(3), 348. DOI: 10.1007/s11920-012-0348-x

Ireland, J. L., Ireland, C. A., & Birch, P. (Eds.). (2018). Violent and sexual offenders: Assessment, treatment, and management. Routledge. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from

Kim, B., Benekos, P. J., & Merlo, A. V. (2016). Sex offender recidivism revisited: Review of recent meta-analyses on the effects of sex offender treatment. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse17(1), 105-117. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from

McGrath, R. J., Cumming, G. F., Burchard, B. L., Zeoli, S., & Ellerby, L. (2010). Current practices and emerging trends in sexual abuser management. The Safer Society24. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from

Sorrentino, R., Brown, A., Berard, B., & Peretti, K. (2018). Sex Offenders: General Information and Treatment. Psychiatric Annals, 48(2), 120-128. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from

Yates, P. M. (2013). Treatment of sexual offenders: Research, best practices, and emerging models. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 8(3-4), 89-95. Retrieved March 29, 2019, from