Sexual offending is a legal construct that overlaps, but is not entirely congruent with, clinical constructs of disorders of sexual preference. Sexual offending is both a social and a public health issue. Victim surveys illustrate high incidence and prevalence levels, and it is commonly accepted that there is considerable hidden sexual victimisation. There are significant levels of psychiatric morbidity in survivors of sexual offences.
Psychological interventions are generally based on behavioural or psychodynamic theories.
Behavioural interventions fall into two main groups: those based on traditional classical conditioning and/or operant learning theory and those based on cognitive behavioural approaches. Approaches may overlap. Interventions associated with traditional classical and operant learning theory are referred to as behaviour modification or behaviour therapy, and focus explicitly on changing behaviour by administering a stimulus and measuring its effect on overt behaviour. Within sex offender treatment, examples include aversion therapy, covert sensitisation or olfactory conditioning. Cognitive behavioural therapies are intended to change internal processes - thoughts, beliefs, emotions, physiological arousal - alongside changing overt behaviour, such as social skills or coping behaviours. They may involve establishing links between offenders' thoughts, feelings and actions about offending behaviour; correction of offenders' misperceptions, irrational beliefs and reasoning biases associated with their offending; teaching offenders to monitor their own thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with offending; and promoting alternative ways of coping with deviant sexual thoughts and desires.
Psychodynamic interventions share a common root in psychoanalytic theory. This posits that sexual offending arises through an imbalance of the three components of mind: the id, the ego and the superego, with sexual offenders having temperamental imbalance of a powerful id (increased sexual impulses and libido) and a weak superego (a low level of moral probation), which are also impacted by early environment.
This updates a previous Cochrane review but is based on a new protocol.