All in Treatment & Practice
I was struck last week with a poem sent me by a friend, written by a skilled mountain climber. The poem basically said that “those who’ve been to the high country can see everything below, while those below cannot say the same about what’s above them.” His metaphor has, I think, some value. He meant that with age, people use their life experience to make decisions that are products of that wisdom.
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.”)
Serving others begins to erode the wall we construct around ourselves, especially for those who have come to believe “I’m the victim here!” Contributing to the well-being of fellow humans , animals and the larger world is satisfying because we all want to belong and to be seen for our caring. But, in addition, being in service will often take us out of a place of self pity (and maybe self loathing) into a healthier place of interrelationship.
Fitting in requires some skills and a lot of discipline. Putting up with people’s idiosyncrasies, and deciding not to weigh in with countering opinions, is a practice that has yielded us rewards beyond our imagination. Among the foremost is connection.
What is the source of hope and how can we reclaim it? Can we mop ourselves up and be wrung back into the pail using self empathy alone? In our darkest times, can we see enough of the “promised land” to motivate in that direction? Is the empathy and support of others a necessary part of the rescue?
So, this time of year can also symbolize a rebirth of intention for bettering our behavior and reducing our biases or moral judgments about others, including former criminals. Many associate a New Year’s wish with this kind of new growth, and may even resort to asking for support from others.
There are two problems when it comes to sorting out how a community deals with errant sexuality.
Next year, we’re holding forums throughout Oregon to dig into the problems and help launch local strategies to increase public safety and to reduce the number of sexual assaults.
Suggesting we kill the offenders amounts to adapting a failed strategy to meet needs of safety, harmony and understanding. There are other, peaceful, ways to meet those same needs.
How can children be expected to learn healthy sexual behaviors if the parents aren't aware of them? How can children learn healthy sexual attitudes if the church doesn't walk it's talk? How can we break the cycle of sexual violence until such time as we put our citizen's rights above our own desires?
So, if it's possible for an offender to reform, and it's also possible for a rape victim and her abuser to restore trust, it suggests that there is room for the rest of us to move towards restoration as well.
Social workers provide the lion’s share of sex offender treatment in this country. Many have a bias against sex offenders; some think anyone with that label will never be successful in treatment.
Thankfully, most providers see sex offenders as being able to rehabilitate themselves. Without that window hope, without a deep trust between the treatment provider and the client, the chances of successful treatment are slim.
Treatment providers must have extensive college education and then years of supervised practice before they can be certified by a state to be licensed. Licensing is generally a good thing. But the restrictions on who can be a treatment provider create a scarcity, and thus the supply of licensed providers is low compared to the number of those being required to receive treatment.
The act of remembering our essence, not our actions, is the centerpiece of becoming present to your behavior. Who we are, fundamentally, does not change because we were convicted of a crime. Who we are fundamentally is human, bones and flesh, brilliance and bloopers.
Wholeness is missing in our national thrall with sexual abuse, and this book can add a couple of dimensions to the puzzle, opening the potential for growth, more safety and public health.
The multitude of women stepping forward to talk publicly about sexual assaults they have endured over past decades is refreshing. Shining light on male privilege and the power that men exert in the workplace to get their sexual gratification is way overdue.
But what is missing? First, there is no meaningful explanation from the offender, no face to face with the victim. A week later, Harvey Weinstein and Charley Rose and the rest are gone, embarrassed perhaps but their wealth insulates them from further rebuke. There is no courtroom trial, no calling the person to account for their behavior.
Transformation of behavior is more like turning a cruise ship around than "turning on a dime."
When working with people who have a conviction for sex offense, it's important to be realistic with your expectations and theirs. What took dozens of years to put in motion will take years of focused, skilled work on your part and theirs to effect a dramatic change of course.
Mindfulness, in its many forms, is a practice that can make that shift more quickly, with more peace along way.
Reading the article raised more questions than it answered. First, it did not say what the program consisted of, although it did say that it was "group" treatment, and did not mention "individual" treatment as a complimentary part of the program. Secondly, it mentioned that the program was thought earlier to actually reduce the chances of offending. What changed?
As the US continues to have a romance with "tough on crime", people pleading guilty get sentences that are very long compared to other countries. So, on one hand, the court's time is too precious to waste on the accused, and then time means nothing to society once the guilty are put away in prisons.
Newer strategies of sex offender treatment begin with the idea that people can only learn and change in a trusted environment. So groups are often arranged in a circle, rather than rows of desks. Trust is built by eliminating the artificial boundary of “us and them”. The “expert” is more of a facilitator. Students are seen as real people, not their criminal record.
The essence of imprisonment is deprivation of liberty and the task of the prison authorities is to ensure that this is implemented in a manner which is no more restrictive than is necessary. It is not the function of the prison authority to impose additional deprivations on those in its care.