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Working with sex offenders: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of therapists’ experiences

Mulligan, Eluned (2013) Working with sex offenders: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of therapists’ experiences. University of Bath.

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Abstract

Harmful consequences of working therapeutically with sex offenders have been widely reported, with less research into the rewarding aspects of the work and coping strategies therapists use. The present study qualitatively investigated how facilitators of the UK Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) construct their experiences of working with sex offenders, focussing most closely on their motivations, the perceived consequences of the work, and their use of coping strategies. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 facilitators and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Analysis revealed 4 major themes: (a) the personal significance and meaning of the work; (b) challenges of working with sex offenders; (c) the balance between distancing and desensitisation; and (d) support, or lack of, in the workplace. The first 3 themes are discussed in detail. It was found that participants struggle to find a balance between distancing themselves from the work in order to cope and not becoming desensitised to the extent that it becomes a harmful consequence. Implications for training and support of therapists are discussed.

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