Letters to the Editor

From the week of December 19, 2002

One of the most humane aspects of the T.H.E. treatment approach that Ms. Jargon seems to have completely misunderstood has to do with the matter of hopelessness. Hopelessness is the state that manipulative people, like sex offenders, need to accept in order to be willing to live with outside guidance and control. They are not able to develop the necessary dependency on external help unless they first feel an overwhelming need for help. The offenders will not feel that need for help until they can achieve some meaningful hopelessness about the way they run their lives. Unfortunately, court-ordered clients are extremely resistant to embrace such vulnerability. While getting to this point in treatment may take years (or may never be achieved), it remains the most responsible and humane effort to hold the client (i.e., not graduate) until they achieve the necessary hopelessness to take in the necessary help.

One of the most humane aspects of the T.H.E. treatment approach that Ms. Jargon seems to have completely misunderstood has to do with the matter of hopelessness. Hopelessness is the state that manipulative people, like sex offenders, need to accept in order to be willing to live with outside guidance and control. They are not able to develop the necessary dependency on external help unless they first feel an overwhelming need for help. The offenders will not feel that need for help until they can achieve some meaningful hopelessness about the way they run their lives. Unfortunately, court-ordered clients are extremely resistant to embrace such vulnerability. While getting to this point in treatment may take years (or may never be achieved), it remains the most responsible and humane effort to hold the client (i.e. not graduate) until they achieve the necessary hopelessness to take in the necessary help.

Regarding the expressed concern that sex offenders will be seen as lepers by society, the reality is that it has already happened. Another feature of T.H.E. that makes us humane is that we promote holding on to and treating as many of these "lepers" in society until they become reliably safe. The fact that most repetitive adult sex offenders do not become safe enough to remove external control indicates that we are committing ourselves to working with societyís most difficult people for the rest of their lives. That, in and of itself, is quintessentially humane.

With regards to some of the specific inaccuracies within the article:

The article indicated that there is a debate concerning a cure for sex offenders. There is a wealth of data that reports there is no known cure for the deviant arousal of repetitive sex offenders. The national/international body for promoting and guiding the treatment of sex offenders (the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers) states this in their standards of practice, as do the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board Practices and Guidelines. Similarly, common sense says that we do not change who we are sexually.

The article also suggests that graduation should occur; after all, other treatment programs are graduating their clients. We do provide an individualized path for graduation for each sex offender, but very few make it. Why? Because most repetitive sex offenders have a serious personality disorder, which is a requirement for enjoying the destruction of othersí lives. Now, the question is: why do some treatment programs graduate these same clients? First, many mental health professionals need to see themselves as able to restore their clients to self-sufficiency, and it is extremely difficult to look another person in the eye and say you need to be externally controlled and I will do it. Controlling people is simply not part of mental health training although, when dealing with offender populations, it should be. Second, those who are business oriented may not want to annoy their referral sources by not allowing enough sex offenders to pass through the system.

If we accept that sex offenders can not be cured to the degree that we can rely upon their own judgment to self manage, we, as a community are stuck with managing their lives for them. Thus, the role of therapists should be one of monitoring, guiding and controlling, not curing. It is a less than grand career but certainly humane and very difficult since the responsible therapist does not get to enjoy completion (or graduation) as a part of job satisfaction.

While there are graduate level interns at THE, the majority of the staff have masters degrees in psychology or social work.

Regarding adversive conditioning, the purpose is to offer the offender a way to interrupt deviant fantasies, which unfortunately occur frequently. All olfactory techniques are individually based and not health threatening. (i.e. no use of ammonia).

At T.H.E., each client has an individualized treatment plan that also includes specialized approaches to dealing with family members and other relevant individuals within their lives. Additionally, we treat a wide range of mental health issues and, frequently, include psychiatric and other professionals within a clientís individualized treatment. The only aspect of T.H.E.ís treatment approach which is consistent for all clients is the prioritization of community safety.

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