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Abstract: Changing Faces in the Assessment and Treatment of Sexually Abusive Youth

Over the past decade we’ve seen changes in the assessment and treatment of sexually abusive youth, some of which have been mirrored in our work with adult sexual offenders. In terms of assessment, we’ve seen movement towards a more comprehensive process that is contextually and developmentally informed, as well as recognizing the difficulties inherent in predicting future sexually troubled behavior, and especially in young people. In addition, we see risk assessment as an opportunity to assess needs and strengths, as well as risk, and its value as a tool for treatment planning and case management. With respect to treatment, we’ve seen a movement away from simplistic and largely psychoeducational models to practices that are developmentally sensitive, sensitive to issues of attachment and social connection, and more attuned to the relational aspects of therapy, the importance of the therapeutic environment, and underlying elements essential to all forms of effective treatment. Rather than being focused only on cognitive and behavioral aspects of sexually troubled behavior, treatment has become more rehabilitative, focused upon wellness and social competence rather than the reduction of recidivism as the sole goal of treatment. 


Phil Rich presents, trains, and consults nationally and internationally, specializing in work with sexually abusive youth. Phil holds a doctorate in applied behavioral and organizational studies and a master’s degree in social work, and has been a licensed independent clinical social worker for over 30 years. He was the Clinical Director of the Stetson School for 13 years, a residential treatment program for sexually reactive children and adolescent and young adult sexual offenders in Massachusetts. Phil is the author of “Understanding Juvenile Sexual Offenders: Assessment, Treatment, and Rehabilitation (1st and 2nd editions),” “Attachment and Sexual Offending: Understanding and Applying Attachment Theory to the Treatment of Juvenile Sexual Offenders,” and “Juvenile Sexual Offenders: A Comprehensive Guide to Risk Evaluation,” as well as the four “Stages of Accomplishment Workbooks for Sexually Abusive Youth, ” and a number of contributed chapters and articles that address work with adult and juvenile sexual offenders and forensic work in general. He is currently working on a second book addressing the application of attachment-informed work with sexually abusive youth.