In my first blog in this series, I wrote about the fact that getting a therapist is one of the first things you need to do when you are under investigation for a cybersex crime. I briefly mentioned that you will need a specific type of therapist in that post and I am going to expand on what you need to look for in a therapist here.
Given how expensive this entire process is, one’s inclination is to just find a therapist who takes their insurance, can help with the anxiety and depression they are experiencing, though not necessarily specializing in treating people engaging in cybersex crimes. I understand that thought process. However, there are some things you need to know.
- Many therapists will not work with sex offenders. You would think or hope that someone who works as a mental health counselor would be able to work with anyone without prejudice. Unfortunately, that is not true. Research studies have shown that a high percentage of therapists will not work with someone who is attracted to children or has engaged in sexual behavior with a child (even if it is online). This means that if you go to see just any therapist, you do not know if you are meeting with someone who is personally comfortable working with you. If they are not, ethically they are to refer you to someone else. However, not all therapists will do this. This means that you may get advice biased by their own opinions about sexual offenders and often this is not accurate or helpful.
- Many therapists are not comfortable talking in depth about sex and sexuality. If you are going to really get to the root of the behavior that led to you engaging in a cybersex crime, you are going to be talking in depth about sexual behaviors. This means that the therapist you choose to work with needs to be completely comfortable in their own sexuality and able to nonjudgmentally sit with the sexual behaviors of others. Again, just as not all therapists can work with sex offenders, not all therapists are very comfortable talking about sex and sexuality. That might sound odd, but it is true.
- Most therapists are not trained in treating sexual behavior that crosses into offending. In the process of graduate training to become a therapist, unless a person knows they want to specialize in treating sexual behavior problems from the get go, they are likely to receive limited training in the topic. Normally all counseling programs make students take one course on human sexuality. That’s it. This means that a general therapist will not have the training or knowledge to help you with the specific issues that brought you to being investigated for a cybersex crime.
What do you need to look for in a therapist?
- A therapist who has experience working with sexual behaviors. Most therapists will have listed somewhere on their website or Psychology Today profile what types of issues they work with. If a therapist states that they work with sexual issues such as pornography addiction, sexual dysfunction, or other sexual health problems, they are going to be comfortable talking to you about details of sexual issues.
- A therapist who has experience working with sexual offending behaviors such as child pornography, sexting minors, online solicitation, etc. This will require a phone call or an email to the therapist and direct questioning. Have they worked with people in your exact situation before? If they have not, you might want to continue searching for a therapist who as at least seen a few people who are in your situation.
- A therapist who has specific training, certification or professional membership to organizations that work with sexual behavior problems. The best thing is to find a therapist who is a member of ATSA. This stands for the Association for Treatment of Sex Abusers. This is an international organization that is entirely dedicated to research and treatment of people who engage in sexual offending behavior. The website atsa.com has a referral page where you can find a therapist. A second tier choice would be to find someone who is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist through IITAP (www.iitap.com) or trained through SASH (www.sash.net). If you find a clinician who is experienced in treating your issue and they are not certified or a member of ATSA please make sure they stay informed of the latest treatment research and trends.
Again, if you are reading this you are in a very particular situation and need a very particular therapist to help you. You need a therapist who is comfortable discussing sexuality in all forms, is willing to work with people who are attracted to children, has experience in treating people with sexual offending behavior and is up to date on the latest research in the field.
Dr. Jennifer Weeks is the owner of Sexual Addiction Treatment Services. She specializes in the treatment of sexual offenders and cybersex offenders. Through her program she provides psychosexual evaluations, treatment and expert witness testimony. SATS also offers coaching services for those people who are being investigated but are not in Pennsylvania.