For many years, therapeutic interventions for juvenile sex offenders were similar to those for adult sex offenders. However, research advances in developmental, motivational and behavioral differences in juvenile and adult sex offender have resulted in the development of interventions that are more responsive to the diversity of sexual offending between these two groups.
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For instance, psychotherapeutic interventions to help the juveniles understand and manage their illness involve the exploration of traumas that the juveniles may have experienced in the past while interventions for adult offenders such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tend to focus on current situations rather than the exploration of past trauma. While interventions for general offending behaviors may be applicable to juvenile sexual offenders, interventions for general adult offending may not apply to adult sexual offenders who often present with issues similar to those observed in alcoholics and addicts. However, there also exist similarities in interventions for both groups.
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For instance, CBT for both juvenile and adult offenders focuses on the identification of thoughts and circumstance that trigger offending behavior, correction of these deviant thoughts for juveniles and the identification of effective ways to short circuit the trigger process for adults. In my opinion, Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is the most effective form of therapy for juvenile offenders while CBT and group therapy are the most effective for adults. MST reduces the occurrence of offending behavior by targeting the youth’s underlying problematic behavior. Through MST, interpersonal transactions and social interactions in the youth’s natural environment can be addressed which will prevent the probability that the youth will relapse once he/she re-enters the community despite the success of CBT and psychotherapeutic interventions.
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Moreover, the involvement of the youth’s family will ensure that they are empowered to raise their child in a more aware manner. CBT for adult offenders gives the offender control over his/her illness through coping mechanisms geared towards short-circuiting the trigger process. Moreover, through behavior contraction, the offender and the therapist are able to agree on the specific sexual behaviors that need to be eliminated which instils a sense of obligation and responsibility in the offender. Group therapy provides a safe space for the offenders to become aware of their internal rationalization processes, confront their behaviors and provides excellent external reinforcement for permanent changes in behavior which a therapist alone would not be able to provide.
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