In Puritan America, a married woman’s illicit affair with a minister landed her in jail. After her release, Hester Prynne was sentenced to forever wear a big red “A” on her dress. 

Nearly 375 years later, the U.S. continues to be scandalized, tantalized and perplexed by sex, especially about sex offenders. Tough on crime, we’re still struggling to learn: 

  • Why domestic violence and incest are so under-reported by victims? 
  • Why most people think every sexual offender is a serial rapist? 
  • Why, even among therapists, many continue to believe sex-offenders to be untreatable? 
  • Why supervision after offenders’ release tends to-wards punitive rather than restorative? 

It’s time to bring the subject of sex crime out of the dark ages, time to help victims shed the shame and trauma of their experience. It’s also time to allow offenders an opportunity to show they can change, make amends and start to earn back trust and acceptance from society.

Empathy and Honesty - Cornerstones of Good Treatment

A video on YouTube, posted by a trainer in emotional intelligence, had this quote: “Empathy is necessary for healing; Honesty is necessary for growth.”

In treatment, having empathy for the client is a key to gaining trust. Obviously, without trust, treatment won’t get very far. Empathy allows the client to understand, to tangibly FEEL, that the counselor is in their corner, the provider believes in them and is in total support of their recovery or growth.

Honesty is needed in like measure. Without honesty, there will be no “aha” moments, no discovery. Empathy without honesty can allow the client to stay stuck in their victim story (“it’s somebody else’s fault that I’m here.”)

Honesty also means we allow the client to see our cards as treatment providers, that our support for their growth and health includes our holding them accountable.

The following is an exercise that can be done to elicit both empathy and honesty:

  • think of a personal trait, or habit, that you are queasy about

  • what feelings arise when you think of hanging on to that habit, and what need is met by our not changing?

  • what need is not being met, when I continue to allow the unwanted habit to continue?

  • In the context of a long work session, the client can see the dual values - one for hanging onto old habits (because of fear, perhaps, from wanting ease), and the other a longing for a need, perhaps of freedom from habit and being healthy again)

  • Seeing the competing needs side by side can be a catalyst for change, especially if the provider/counselor supports the growth through the use of empathy and encouragement.

Knowing and Not Knowing

Devotion to Service and Ego Satisfaction

Devotion to Service and Ego Satisfaction