Growing Beyond provides our field with a unique tool. Susan Robinson has produced not only a workbook for teen girls with sexual offenses; she has also provided the theory and research differentiating this female population. While the majority of our youth who offend are male, girls form one of the specialized subgroups who require their own form and style of treatment.
The first part of the manual, the “guide for treatment” defines the need for female specific interventions. The philosophy here is refreshing: that girls are not always victims, that their offense behaviors need to be viewed as just that – offense behaviors. Given this, there are unique aspects to female development and to the etiology of adolescent female offending that requires our attention.
A holistic approach is taken to the treatment program based on the developmental needs of girls. This holistic approach is also being seen more and more with the treatment of our teen boys who offend, with the focus on the developmental needs of boys. An additional component of the Manual is a section on group process with girls. This is worth the purchase by itself. Ms. Robinson clearly defines specific processes that will occur in a girls’ group and how to facilitate the group to enhance the positives and reduce the negatives of these processes. She includes discussion of transference and countertransference and does not shy from issues of sexual arousal. We could certainly use a manual on working with the boys that includes this level of process for therapists!
An overview of the workbook is provided in the manual. The workbook itself is an extensive collection of exercises organized by Ms. Robinson’s theoretical model for the treatment of sexually abusing girls. There are eight sections that are designed as a “start to finish” treatment program. All of the language is specifically designed for girls. The section on sexuality, for example, provides general information and loads of specific information on female specific sexuality. Every section includes stories from girls who committed sexual offenses. The many elements of Growing Beyond that are female specific are a much needed resource in our field. The one caveat here is that girls do not form a single subgroup. The workbook is designed in a way that makes modified use for a specific individual cumbersome. The exercises cannot be reproduced, requiring purchase of a full workbook for each girl. Some of the traditional concepts that are now being questioned are included. For example, exercises for detailed stories of the offending behavior are included and are in the first section of the workbook. There is an assumption that a sexual abuse cycle is the only way to understand offending and the potential for re-offending. There are no options available.
As a “first of its kind”, this workbook is an excellent resource for our female clients. It clarifies aspects of treatment for girls that each of us has had to develop on our own up to now. If you work with girls, get “Growing Beyond”.