Hypnotic Psychotherapy with Sex Offenders

Article excerpt

The authors review the literature on the prevalence of sex offenders; multiple treatment modalities; and implications of the use of hypnotic psychotherapy, coupled with cognitive behavioral treatment programs, for treating sex offenders.


Sex offenders and the offenses they commit have been topics of discussion by the American public for years. In the 1990s, for example, the State of Washington became the first state to pass legislation requiring communities to be notified when a sex offender returns to a community. In 1994, when Megan Kanka was raped and murdered, there was a public outcry to establish community notification laws across the United States; as a result, Megan's Law became effective on May 17,1996 (Jones, 1999). Megan's Law requires states to register convicted sex offenders of crimes against children and also allows states to make both private and personal information about sex offenders available to the communities in which they live. The expectation is that the release of information on registered sex offenders will protect American children and increase public safety.

Law enforcement agencies in the United States are disturbed by the number of sex crimes that occur and the impact they have on the lives of Americans, particularly the lives of children (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000). The Uniform Crime Reporting Program recently developed a reporting system, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), to offer the law enforcement and the academic communities more comprehensive data for management, training, planning, research, and other uses. The NIBRS includes a comprehensive description of sexual assaults and provides information regarding victim injury; the victim's perception of offenders, age, gender, race, and ethnicity; and the victim-offender relationship. This reporting system also gathers information on all offenses that occur in an incident, the weapons used, the location of the incident, arrests, and victim refusal to cooperate in the investigation (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000).

On any day in the United States, approximately 234,000 persons are convicted of sexual assault or rape and are in the care, custody, or control of correctional agencies; approximately 60% of these offenders live in local communities under conditional supervision (U.S. Department of Justice, 1997).

In this article, we present a brief overview of the characteristics of sex offenders. In addition, we discuss the implications of using hypnotic psychotherapy in conjunction with cognitive behavior therapy and relapse prevention as a treatment for such offenders.

Characterizing Offenses

Most sex offenders are male, and they assault children under the age of 6 years. Juveniles under the age of 18 committed approximately 23% of all sexual assaults, whereas 77% of sexual assaults were committed by adults. Nearly 45% of all forcible fondling cases are committed by adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years and juvenile offenders under the age of 12 years. Adult offenders over the age of 34 years accounted for the remaining percentages of forcible fondling. The NIBRS also reported that 40% of juvenile offenders under the age of 12 years committed sexual offenses involving sexual assaults with an object and forcible sodomies. Overall, the victims of juvenile offenders are children under the age of 11 years. Alarmingly, the largest number of juvenile sex offenders are 14 years of age, a fact that is a major concern for the public and for law enforcement officials (U.S. Department of Justice, 2000). Table 1 presents the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) four offense categories for sexual assault and the percentages of the offense committed by specific age of offender.

Family members perpetrate nearly 30% of all sexual offenses, and approximately half of the victims are under the age of 6 years. Of the remaining sexual offenses, almost 60% are committed by an acquaintance of the victim and less than 14% by strangers. …