Vol. XXVII, No. 2
Spring 2015
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Regular Features
Editor's Note
President's Message
Featured Articles
Applying the Self-Regulation Model to Community Supervision
How to develop good public understanding of child sexual abuse and its management.
International Membership Survey Results
Protective Factors for Sexually Violent Offending
Students' Voice
Online Sexual Offenders’ Implicit Theories
Book Review
Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy
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ATSA Forum Newsletter Readership Survey
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Ethics Violation
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Contact the editor or submit articles to:

Heather M. Moulden, Ph.D.
Forensic Program
St. Joseph's Healthcare
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E: hmoulden@stjoes.ca
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Featured Articles
Applying the Self-Regulation Model to Community Supervision
By Nicholas Honyara, MS, Richmond Parsons, MS and Ronald Ricci, PhD

 

The Self-Regulation Model (SRM) was introduced by Ward and colleagues as an alternative approach to the traditional relapse prevention model for the treatment of sexual abusers (Ward, Hudson & Keenan, 1998).  While surveys show that this model has been embraced by the majority of treatment providers, it seems many probation and parole officers have limited understanding of SRM, and therefore little appreciation of its usefulness for the difficult task of supervision.  The authors suggest that the SRM can aid in the effective community management of sex offenders by providing targeted supervision that is responsive to the specific offender’s self-regulation style (SRS) and specific pathway to their sexual offending.  Any individual working with sex offenders, either through supervision or treatment provision, should gain an understanding of the SRM model.  A full explanation of the SRM is beyond the scope of this article, but the following highlights the important aspects of the model. (see Ward, Hudson, & Keenan, 1998; Ward & Hudson, 2000; Ward & Siegert, 2000)

SRM is a model to explain idiosyncratic motivation and dynamics of the offense process.   The model outlines four pathways based on two criteria.  The first criterion examines and defines the offense related goal of the offender.  Offenders may have an avoidant goal towards offending, indicating a desire to refrain from sexual offending.  In contrast, approach oriented offenders have a specific goal of offending in mind and, once determined, move towards that goal without resistance.

The second criterion defines the offender’s self-regulation style (under-regulation, mis-regulation, or intact regulation).   Under-regulation is the failure to control behavior due to a lack of adaptive skills; mis-regulation involves attempts to regulate behavior that are misguided or counter-productive; while intact regulation involves effective control of behavior towards a desired goal. 

Permuting these two criteria in a variety of combinations creates the four pathways outlined by Ward and Hudson which they labeled Avoidant-Passive, Avoidant-Active, Approach-Automatic, and Approach-Explicit.   The Avoidant-Passive offender attempts to avoid sex offending but they are under-regulated to achieve their goal. The Avoidant-Active offender also attempts to avoid offending, but their coping responses are mis-regulated and thereby ineffective or perhaps ironic.  Approach-Automatic offenders have offense related goals, while at the same time lack the specific skills (under-regulated) to effectively plan their strategy, and rely on opportunity which is then seized and driven by offense-supportive core beliefs.   Finally, Approach-Explicit offenders have offense related goals and have intact regulation, meaning they possess the desire to offend and the skills to fulfill that desire or goal.

Probation and Parole officers can take into account the offender’s pathway and self-regulation style to develop a supervision plan that is tailored specifically to the offender and to more effectively target identified risks.  By collaborating with other members of the offender’s management team, supervising officers have information available to them to design an effective and efficient approach to supervision and rehabilitation.  It is common for staff and resources to be severely taxed and this approach allows supervising officers the ability to target offenders’ risks and needs and to more efficiently and effectively manage risk and promote positive behavioral change.

The following examples are naturally not exhaustive, but are intended to demonstrate targeted supervision approaches based on information about SRS and offense pathway. 

Scenario 1:  Even though John has been fantasizing about having sex with minor children for most of his life, he never told anyone and was largely able to ignore his feelings.  He was able to date, get married, and have children.    When his daughter had friends to their home, he found himself looking at her friends in a sexual way, but continued to deny or ignore his feelings.  One night his daughter hosted a sleep over and after everyone fell asleep he lay next to one of her friends and placed his hands under her pajamas as he masturbated.  The girl woke up and quickly ran and told John’s wife. John was subsequently arrested and convicted.  He attempted suicide a few days later.  Based on this brief scenario, John is believed to be an Avoidant-Passive offender due to offense-related avoidant goals with no skills or coping responses to maintain that avoidance (under-regulated).

Utilizing this knowledge, John’s probation would likely be most effective if his officer took the role of teacher/mentor to John.  Since John shares society’s mutual goal of not re-offending, a case supervision plan can be collaboratively developed with agreed upon goals. These goals should include selecting an approved community support person, preferably his wife, who is willing to partner with John in his treatment and who is willing to support him in effectively managing emotions and fantasies and also help him assess his daily choices to ensure they are safe, sound and in accord with relapse prevention. The case plan should also include  utilizing the community support person in identifying and engaging John in  activities and hobbies which not only provide enjoyment, but also (more importantly) help him develop skills which he can generalize to his goal of abstaining from offending. One example of such a skill-building activity might be to employ John’s interest in a political debate club wherein critical thinking and problem solving are regularly practiced.  During regular contacts, the officer can inquire about current goals/strategies as well as his application of newly-developed adaptive coping strategies for managing sexual fantasy and deviant urges.  The officer can work on developing self-efficacy as s/he teaches and encourages skills development. The officer would be wise to monitor for risk factors such as mood swings or evidence of acute shame (instead of guilt) for his past offending behavior.   The officer should recognize that John’s offense may be a source of shame, and thereby a potential trigger to emotional destabilization. Should the officer demean or berate John s/he may be, paradoxically, increasing John’s risk to reoffend.

Scenario 2: Bill has been fantasizing sexually about young children for many years.  He does not feel comfortable around adults and has been unable to have any lengthy or substantive adult relationships.  He tried to teach himself to like adult females.  He started viewing pornography at night after his mother was in bed.  He often became frustrated and would view “barely legal” sites, depicting females apparently on the cusp of adulthood.  On days when he felt really down he looked at child pornography, telling himself after each event that it was his last. He attempted to manage his increasing sexual urges for child contact by masturbating while viewing the illegal pornography. He rationalized that “looking was not touching,” and found himself looking at illegal material again and again.  He was arrested when he downloaded several illegal videos through a peer-to-peer network and had sexual online communication with what he believed to be a 12-year-old female who was in reality an undercover police officer.  Bill is an Avoidant-Active offender because he has offense-related avoidant goals, but he employed mis-regulated strategies to attempt to maintain that goal.

Bill’s supervision would be most effective if his officer were to use approaches typically employed by a “coach.”   As is the case with most Avoidant-Active offenders, Bill may consider himself to have made a mistake, and hold complete confidence that he has learned his lesson and that future offending is not possible. He likely holds renewed confidence in his abilities and strategies and does not believe he needs intervention. What Bill needs most from his supervising officer is guidance, education, and redirection. The officer can help Bill look at how his well-intended strategies have failed in the past and help him re-design his problem solving skills. Through the reiterative process of planning, adjusting, reviewing and implementing the officer can help guide and restructure Bill’s decision making skills.  During contacts, the officer may explore how Bill stays motivated and his strategies for handling risky situations.  The officer should be concerned if Bill becomes overly optimistic as often Avoidant-Active offenders believe their strategies, however mis-guided, are effective and that they have everything under control.  A case plan may include installation of computer monitoring software with the development of an Internet health plan that includes pro-social/healthy Internet activities, e.g., Cyber AA, college courses, etc. The case plan should also include that Bill engage in pro-social activities that encourage him to develop healthy platonic and romantic relationships.

Scenario 3: Steve perceives that women are attracted to him and that they should be honored to have sex with him.  He has a lengthy history of “hooking up” with women in clubs and bars.   He brags that it is amazing what you can get a drunken woman to do.  While Steve is having dinner in a local pub he notices that the new waitress is paying him lots of attention.  He asks her if she wants to meet up after work.  When she says “no” he interprets this to be because of her employer’s rules of not dating customers.   Steve waits in his truck until she leaves work.  When she leaves, he asks her to come over to his vehicle to talk.  She gets in his car to talk, but again rebuffs his advances. Once he recognizes that his coaxing is failing, he begins to kiss and grope her, ignoring her resistance, until he finally rapes her.  Steve is an Approach-Automatic offender because he has offense-related approach goals coupled with under-regulated strategies.

Steve’s probation officer would best serve him to act in the role of a school “Principal.”  Steve has little internal motivation for change given he holds an offense-related approach goal. He will therefore benefit most from very clear rules and expectations and his probation officer would be wise to verify any information that the offender provides. The informed officer may ask Steve to maintain a journal of daily activities which the officer can randomly verify with collateral contacts.  His officer liberally employs motivational interviewing techniques with an emphasis on helping Steve recognize the discrepancy between his current situation and his desired life goals.  The officer works with Steve to develop strategies to retard his impulsivity.  The officer listens for times when Steve feels that he has suffered some form of injustice or experienced a loss of power or control (especially from women) because he knows that Steve is at a high risk during these periods.  A case plan should include notifying the management team of any arguments, particularly with females, or of situations which cause him embarrassment or evoke an anger response.  The offender should be instructed to notify his team of any budding relationships and to report all sexual activity.

Scenario 4: Mike is sexually attracted to children.  He always dates women with children so that he has an opportunity to offend against her sons or daughters.  Mike’s approach was very successful in that he has been able to sexually molest dozens of children across age and gender. This is until recently when his girlfriend arrived home early from work and walked in on Mike engaged in sexual activity with her son.  She called the police.  Mike is an Approach-Explicit offender because he has offense-related approach goals and his regulation is intact.

Mike’s probation officer must be a “surveillance officer” and view everything about Mike’s reports, actions, and behaviors through a skeptical lens. S/he has the offender on GPS monitoring and has Mike maintain a detailed time chart. The officer investigates any discrepancies with time and immediately responds to rule violations.  His officer uses motivational interviewing and understands the importance of developing rapport which will be built from directness and honesty, not from “niceness” or  leniency.  During contacts, s/he helps Mike realize how his current attitudes and beliefs have negatively affected his ability to accomplish his larger life goals, and also to recognize the negative effect in other domains such as relationships and employment.  He also helps Mike find opportunities to use his effective (albeit mis-used)   strategies to achieve satisfying pro-social rather than anti-social goals. Mike must inform the management team of any relationships as well as any “incidental” contact with children.  Leniency with regard to his supervision plan should be made with caution and with agreement from everyone on the team. Changes to plans for Approach-Explicit offenders should never be made unilaterally, but rather should include informed input from all members of the professional and support team.   

The authors are not suggesting that supervision officers need to be therapists.  In contrast, it is important that both treatment providers and supervision officers clearly understand their roles in order to most effectively apply a team management model.  It is also important that both treatment providers and supervision officers collaborate and collectively target the offender’s risks and needs.  The interactions between the supervision officer and the offender can augment and support what is being conducted in the treatment room.  As with supervision officers, treatment providers only have a limited period of time.  A “team” approach aids both in effectively managing resources.

The treatment of sex offenders has made many large advances over the last 15 years.  In addition, the field of community corrections has also made significant strides and has implemented evidenced based practices with increasing regularity.   The authors suggest that, unfortunately, there have been fewer advances in the community corrections as it relates to sex offenders, but that the inclusion of the SRM model in community supervision can significantly enhance the safety of the community, and provide supervision officers with a theoretically sound approach to guide their interactions with their clients who have sexually offended.

Ward, T., Hudson, S.M., & Keenan, T. (1998). A self-regulation model of the sexual offense process. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 10(2). 141-157.

Ward, T., & Hudson, S.M. (2000). Self-regulation model of relapse prevention . In D. R. Laws, S.M. Hudson & T. Ward (Eds.) Remaking relapse prevention with sex offenders: A sourcebook (pp. 39-55). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ward, T., & Siegert, R.J. (2002). Toward a comprehensive theory of child sexual abuse: A theory knitting perspective. Psychology, Crime, and Law, 8, 319-351.

 

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