In his Second Edition of Understanding, Assessing, and Rehabilitating Juvenile Sexual Offenders,
Phil Rich makes another outstanding contribution to the field of juvenile
sexual offender treatment. The book provides a thorough, highly informed, well-organized,
and insightful discussion of the complexities inherent in this topic.
At 481 pages, the book may appear daunting, but the
organization, content, and clarity come together to make it reader-friendly. Separated
into four parts, it begins with “Understanding Abusive and Sexually Troubled
Youth” followed by “The Evaluation of Juvenile Sexual Offenders” and “The
Treatment and Rehabilitation of Sexually Abusive Youth,” and concludes with “Approaches
to and Methods of Treatment.” It has a textbook quality and may strike some
readers as a manual for working with juvenile sex offenders. Overall, it is
simply a valuable resource for anyone working with adolescent sexual offenders.
The current edition is more than a revision of the original;
it is a complete rewrite. While the organization and structure are the same, every
chapter integrates the most current research with the author’s interpretation
of how new empirical information should influence best practices. Each chapter flows
logically to the next, yet they can stand alone as separate topics, with subtopics
neatly organized under useful headings.
In Part I, the first eight chapters address the complex
etiology of sexual offending, with a thorough review of the influences and
interactions of psychology and sociology. Rich successfully makes the case that
sexual offending cannot be understood by a simple model of psycho-sexual
pathology, but rather that sexual offending occurs via various pathways to a
“perfect storm” of mismanaged sexual behaviors.
Part I reviews the incidence and dynamics of sexual abuse,
and helps the reader to distinguish the juvenile sexual offender from his
delinquent peers and adult counterparts. It also describes how developmental
rifts in relationships, attachment, and ecology contribute to sexual offending.
Part II, “The Evaluation of Juvenile Sexual Offenders,” leads
readers through the essential elements of a thorough evaluation and a
discussion of foundational theories and models supporting current practices of
assessment and prognosis. These include static and dynamic risk factors, assessment
tools, and evaluation methods. Part II further discusses the strengths and
weaknesses of various elements of evaluating juveniles, while avoiding the more
distracting controversies in the field. Phil emphasizes that the fluid nature
of adolescence requires clinicians to integrate both internal and external
factors into assessments, and monitor for changes over time. There are tips for
motivational interviewing. Part II ultimately
makes a persuasive case for structured clinical assessments, and concludes with
a checklist for a comprehensive evaluation.
The first half of the book builds on the principles of
“risk, need, and responsivity,” which the author weaves into no less than a
dozen theories and models for understanding and treating juvenile sexual
The last two parts, on the treatment of sexual offending, complete
the second half of the book. Part III is
on the “Treatment and Rehabilitation of Sexually Abusive Youth’” and Part IV is
on “Approaches to and Methods of Treatment.” These parts should be considered together,
as they compile theory, models, and components of effective treatment with
insightful commentary about application.
Part III begins with a chapter on the characteristics of
forensic psychology and the unique challenges of working with involuntary
clients. It emphasizes that the relationship between therapist and client is
critical both in motivating kids to change and in guiding them successfully to
end goals. Rich emphasizes that rehabilitation
is not as much about treatment methods as it is about treatment process.
In Parts III and IV, Rich brings some professional distinctiveness
to his understanding of two areas of social psychology as it applies to sexual
offending and treatment: contemporary
applications of psychodynamic theory, and his unique perspective on disruptions
of attachment. Rich has authored a book
on the later and suggests that damaged relationships are not just the result of
sexual abuse, but may be a cause. Rich reminds us that social deviance is
frequently a precursor to sexual deviance. He argues that rehabilitation is not about
plucking pathologies out of offenders as much as integrating all the components
of treatment into a new understanding of social and sexual responsibility,
healthy relationships, and a pro-social lifestyle. He further discusses risk
management, protective factors, and the importance of integrating principles of
the self-regulation and Good Lives models into treatment. The final chapters
discuss the essentials of individual, group, and family therapy, with
sensitivities to victim-offender reconciliation.
Given the thoroughness of the
book, there is a surprising absence of any discussion about the use of the polygraph
or penile plethysmograph in assessments or treatment. With the popularity of the polygraph and
controversies around biometric testing, some discussion of these topics would
have added to the book.
In all, Rich has written a
masterful guide, blending theory, research, and practice with sophisticated and
insightful interpretation. It is
accessible to the newcomer, while providing nuanced discussion for the seasoned
final pages of the book contain a full list of references and complete indexes
by both subject and author, making it a user-friendly reference resource. As a
bonus, the publisher has appendices on line at www.wiley.com, where Rich has written about: Psychopathology & Psychopathy in
Sexually Abusive Youth; The
Adolescent Brain; An Attachment and
Developmentally Informed Model of Treatment; and more.
Comments on this review may be directed to: email@example.com
author of the book can be contacted at: PRich@stetsonschool.org
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