Working with sex offenders:The impact on therapists

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Filip, Anca
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Research has shown that, whatever the therapeutic orientation, the therapeutic relationship between a therapist and patient is central to the therapeutic process. However, studies have also indicated the difficulty of achieving a strong alliance when working with sex offenders. Bearing this in mind, this study explores the subjective experience of therapists working with sex offenders. Using a qualitative approach (interpretative phenomenological analysis), it examines the roles of transference and countertransference and the importance of the therapeutic relationship in managing outcomes. It also highlights the significance of differences in gender and work settings when working with male perpetrators and how these have been experienced. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with five therapists who have worked therapeutically with sex-offenders. Verbatim transcripts of the interviews were then analysed. The researcher identified three main themes: i) isolation; ii) countertransference; and, iii) gender, sexuality, and motherhood. A description of these themes and related subordinated themes is presented. The results of the analysis are considered in light of existing theory and their clinical implications