Vol. XXIX, No. 4
Fall 2017
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In This Issue
Regular Features
Editor's Note
President's Message
Why is Juvenile Polygraph Not Recommended by ATSA?
Featured Articles
Responding to Problematic Technology Use:
Creating a Therapeutic Toolbox
Looking After Ourselves and Each Other
Utilizing Recreation Therapy as Part of the Treatment Model
Understanding and Preventing Adolescent Pedophilia TEDMED Talk
Step One of Cultural Competency Addressing Privilege & Power
Students' Voice
Assessment of Deviant Preferences Using Novel Behavioral Assessment Procedures
A Studentís Guide to the ATSA 2017 Conference
Book Review
RNR Principles in Practice In the Management and Treatment of Sexual Abusers
2017 ATSA Conference Events
Preventing Harmful Sexual Behaviors in Youth: An Infographic from the ATSA Prevention Committee
Welcome Incoming Board Members
2017 ATSA Awards
ATSA Professional Code of Ethics 2017 Revisions and Additions
New ATSA Members
Newsletter Tools
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Forum Team
David Prescott
Book Review Editor

Sarah Gorter
Production Editor

Forum Editor
Contact the editor or submit articles to:

Heather M. Moulden, Ph.D.
Forensic Program
St. Joseph's Healthcare
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
E: hmoulden@stjoes.ca
P: (905) 522-1155 ext. 35539
Why is Juvenile Polygraph Not Recommended by ATSA?
Phil Rich, Ed.D., LICSW
ATSA Executive Board Juvenile Practice Representative

Danielle Harris, Ph.D.
ATSA Executive Board, Research Committee Chair

ATSA’s new adolescent practice guidelines, available to ATSA members through the ATSA website, do not recommend the use of the polygraph for adolescents. As a body wishing to support and emphasize evidence-informed and evidence-based practice, ATSA has assumed this position because there is a lack of evidence to support the use of polygraph examination practice with juveniles. Further, ATSA’s position reflects our priority to “first do no harm,” as well as concerns voiced by some that the polygraph may be harmful to the wellbeing of the juvenile (for instance, Chaffin, 2011). ATSA both supports the importance of client wellbeing in treatment and avoiding treatments that may be coercive whenever possible, as well as building treatment upon evidence, rather than using treatments that have no known established treatment effects. As with all professional guidelines the recommendation is meant to be aspirational with respect to practice, and does not reflect or replace local and/or applicable statutes, provisions, requirements, and other standards that may govern or shape practice. Recognizing this, the guidelines are designed to simply encourage practitioners “to take steps to achieve an appropriate resolution in cases where a conflict between these guidelines and legal and professional obligations occur.”

The polygraph is somewhat unusual in that, in this case, ATSA’s recommendation is not based on evidence that juvenile polygraphs are harmful or ineffective. The position was neither taken with respect to whether or not sexually abusive youth acknowledge more victims or sexual behaviors than they might otherwise have acknowledged, nor with respect to the discovery of additional victims of sexual abuse, who may then themselves get additional help. ATSA’s recommendation is instead based on a lack of evidence for treatment effect or efficacy, as well as the possibility that using the polygraph to engage the young person in greater honesty and less dissimulation, or to get to the “truth,” may in fact be a harmful process, and/or simply ineffective at further increasing the effect of treatment on the young person.

In many, cases it is safe to say that we have treatments and approaches to treatment that are informed by available and consistent research, even if not empirically validated, in which empirical validation is the surest and most concrete form of evidence. However, it must be acknowledged that that level of surety is rare in our field. Nevertheless, we do have treatments that are supported and informed by research into effective and central aspects of treatment and rehabilitation, improved mental health, desistance from antisocial behaviors, and engaging in the treatment process itself. Indeed, this research forms the foundation upon which much of the adolescent practice guidelines is built.  In the case of the polygraph, there is, at best, only inconsistent evidence that it is effective in accurately distinguishing between truth and dishonesty (American Psychological Association, 2004; National Research Council, 2003). There is still less evidence about its use with juveniles and there is an absence of empirical evidence that demonstrates its value as a treatment intervention (Jensen, Shafer, Roby, & Roby, 2015). Finally, it remains unknown whether the use of polygraph examination is associated with either gains in treatment or the further reduction of recidivism in individual clients (Rosky, 2012).

American Psychological Association( August 5, 2004). The truth about lie detectors (aka polygraph tests). Retrieved on-line: http://www.apa.org/research/action/polygraph.aspx

Chaffin, M. (2011).The case of juvenile polygraphy as a clinical ethics dilemma.Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment, 23, 314-328.

Jensen, T. M., Shafer, K., Roby, C. Y., &Roby, J. L. (2015).Sexual history disclosurepolygraph outcomes: Dojuvenile and adult sexoffenders differ?Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30,928 –944.

National Research Council (2003).The polygraph and lie detection.Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph.Division ofBehavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The NationalAcademies Press.

Rosky, J. W. (2012). The (f)utility of post-conviction polygraph testing. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 25, 259-281.

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