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.”)

Devotion to Service and Ego Satisfaction

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.

Trusting the Connection

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.

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.

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.

Some Thoughts on Sex Offender Treatment Providers

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.

#MeToo Campaign is on the Right Track...except for the Ending!

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.

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.