One of the critical questions in exploring alternative sentencing for sex offenders is whether treatment options are effective. It is also important to realize that sex offenders are not a monolithic group and that treatment may be viable for certain subpopulations, but not for others. Here is an article defending treatment as the appropriate solution for many sex offenders. Notably, the expert being quoted makes great efforts to differentiate sex offender treatment programs from traditional therapy:
For many people, Curtis concedes, the word "therapy" conjures an image of a psychiatrist gently leading a patient through treatment as he or she probes the person's feelings. But that image is nothing like what happens in sex-offender therapy, Curtis said. "This isn't touchy-feely at all," she said. "We're not concerned how they feel. We're concerned how they act." That means therapists demand accountability from their clients and aren't afraid to put an offender on the spot. "One of the goals for them is taking 100 percent responsibility for their behavior. ... The treatment is offense-specific," she said. "We are very confrontative about behaviors, beliefs and attitudes that need to change." In fact, sex-offender therapy differs from traditional therapy in a number of ways, Curtis said. For instance:
Therapists treating sex offenders hold their patients responsible for their behavior.
They confront and challenge patients as needed.
They don't trust patients but instead expect them to lie and to minimize and justify their actions.
They set the treatment agenda, rather than allowing the patient to do so, imposing limits and values as they see fit and inducing guilt and negative feelings about an offender's behavior in an effort to motivate them to change.
They're concerned with how the patient acts and believe an offender is accountable to society, not to himself or herself.
They deal with nonvoluntary patients who are referred by a number of sources, including courts, attorneys and families, as well as welfare agencies and Child Protective Services.