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Psychotherapy for Sex Offenders

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R. Karl Hanson, one of the preeminent scholars in the field of the treatment of sex offenders, has a short review article in the April issue of Evidence-Based Mental Health, which abstracts the latest Cochrane review of the literature.   What does the Cochrane review say?  Here's the conclusion:

Currently RCT evidence does not support that psychological interventions reduce the risk of sexual offending.  High-quality RCTs with minimal bias and long-term follow-up in the community are required to identify interventions that can reduce sexual reoffending rates.

And Dr. Hanson's commentary:

The current review is likely to have little impact on practice.  Although their search was thorough and their analysis competent, there was not enough evidence to make strong conclusions.  Furthermore, the majority of the available RCTs did not examine sexual recidivism, but only intermediate outcomes (such as social anxiety), which may or may not be valid risk indicators.

So the data isn't all that great and we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  That's fine, but what the Cochrane review said was that current evidence does not support the notion that psychological interventions reduce sexual reoffending.   We can believe in our heart of hearts that it should - and maybe it does and those studies just haven't been done yet - but as scientists we need to accurately report what the data shows.  Dr. Hanson was accurate in his commentary but all too often what scientists want to be true clouds what the data actually shows. 

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