'But sir, you are an offender !'
Narrative coercion as method of behavior modification
Dr Frans E. J. Gieles, 2006, The Netherlands
This is a short explorative study concerning the methodology of sex offender
treatment (SOT), frequently used today as routine in the Netherlands and abroad.
The basis is
|a short exploration of the literature and |
|the experiences of fifteen clients from several countries. |
A short exploration of the literature is not much, but I read in the
literature of 2006 nearly the same as in the literature of 1996. There seem to
be only a few changes and developments, only in detail within the chosen model,
but the model itself is the same. My impression is: Much of the same.
Fifteen clients are not much, but data are extremely scarce and very
difficult to get. This is because the clients are not allowed to talk about
their own treatment. If they do, they break their contract, thus
they hinder their treatment, thus they break
the conditions of the court, and thus they can be
sent back to prison. In several countries, this can be for
many years in awful and dangerous circumstances. Nevertheless, fifteen
narratives reached me.
The methodology is
described with ‘the seven elements of human acting,’ developed in my
See the scheme here below.
The first column,
Gives the seven elements of - every - human action. To act is more than
performing a deed.
(1) Action starts with
interpreting the situation, and we see that different people may have quite
(2) The actor's goals will determine the action taken.
(3) The actor has to make a choice out of several possible ways of acting, and
then act on his choice.
(4) Then, the actor will look at the outcome, and also has to interpret this.
(5) There remains a feeling afterwards that evaluates the deeds and the outcome
in practical, emotional and ethical aspects.
(6) By acting, the actor discovers knowledge or comes to questions.
(7) Finally, the actor looks ahead to future actions, and tries to improve his
way of acting.
The last row, Summary,
gives a succinct description of the act as analyzed above.
The second column,
Analyses the therapists' way of acting, as it is described in the
literature. Here we see what the therapists see, want, do, the outcome of their
acts, and so on. The summary is sharp and critical.
The third column,
Analyses the way the clients have experienced the acts of the therapist. The
source is here what the clients have told me.
The fourth column,
Gives my critique of the way the therapists acted, including their
interpretations, their goals, their methods, and so on.
'But sir, you are an
|As an offender.
As strange and different, as distorted and dangerous, as a manipulator.
As a behaving being.
|As a person with an inner, a personal biography,
able to act, as a whole and as an individual.
||Too reductionist. Two visions on the human, one for the
clients, another for the therapists.
|Prevention of recidivism, thus changing the offence
behavior; becoming responsible.
Supposedly: only to survive.
|Too limited, too much concentrated on behavior, not
(3) Ways of acting
|Narrative coercion and other forms of coercion and
Conditions beforehand, keeping distance, a group, an offence scenario,
an offence chain, sexual script, avoiding the funnel, lots of orders,
normalizing fantasies; sometimes medicines.
|Clients feel treated like toddlers and complain about
|Too much coercion, too concentrated on outward behavior;
no attention to the inner mind or psyche and the underlying problems.
|Recidivism? This is low.
Questionnaires, after-care group.
Stimuli? Triggers or disinhibitors? Contacts?
|Clients learn to pretend.
'No stroke changed'
Obsessions and depressions still alive.
|Not as intended: the outcome is far from therapeutic.
(5) Feeling afterwards
Impression: Difficult!' 'but also pride on the own expertise.
Negative feelings of the clients: This is part of the method, thus good.
|Extremely negative. Too awful for words. Depressed,
humiliated, traumatized, deprived of self-confidence.
This is a cruel method.
|Take the feelings of the clients afterward more seriously.
|One stays within the chosen model and believes in it.
||I pretend to agree with them: the only way to be released.
||This does not work, at least not therapeutically.
(7) Way to improve
No development, no self-critique.
|Let them listen to us and respect us.
||Have a critical view of the model and the vision behind
it. Start development of methodology.
A very one-sided model full of use of narrative and other kinds of
coercion, which comes across as an ideology, is in itself a closed
I am not, totally not changed.
self-critical; review the model.
The methodology shows a
very one-sided view on the patients, narrow goals, and a very one-sided
methodology in which narrative and coercion are at the core.
The results show low
recidivism, but also very negative feeling and judgment of the patients.
The methodology is
described as "psychotherapy," but there is no attention paid to the
psyche of the patients, only to their behavior and thinking, not to their
obsession, depression or such problems; it is not "therapy" at all, it
is behavior modification – or ideology.
The cognitive behavioral
model of treatment of sex offenders needs a critical view, review and change.
Feelings of the therapists
as well as of the patients have to be investigated in a process of developing
this methodology into a less one-sided and narrow model.
Start with the vision of
the human being, thus on a philosophical level. Then, review the goals and
methods, which might be done on the level of the psychology and psychiatry in a
broad sense, thus not only on the level of the cognitive-behavioral psychology.
"There are eight
teenage boys and two therapists, and all the rest of us are parents and
grandparents. We are bewildered, we are depressed and we are all consigned to
this room for months. I am sick for hours beforehand and a day or more
afterwards, unable to sleep in peace, to eat, to hold a casual conversation.
These boys, including my
son, are sex offenders. We, as their parents, are complicit in crimes hard to
explain or define. Recently I asked my 14-year-old son what he's learned from
the painful events of the last year, and he said, "I've learned sex is
bad. I don't want to think about it anymore."
I believe the cure has been
much worse than the disease.
Each of the boys in our therapy program must 'disclose,' again and again, to all
of us. Public confession is believed to be more than a good -- it's considered
necessary to healing, a sign of responsibility, the willingness to take one's
crimes upon oneself.
He's learning about
'ownership' and 'restitution' and 'errors of thought.'
I don't believe that it is his fault that the system is so cruel, the therapy so
shallow, the philosophy so unintelligent."
"The consequences afterwards? I have listed them:
|always have watery eyes|
|to withdraw into oneself |
|angriness when the person "wakes up" afterwards|
|feeling inferior to others|
|feel ugly and unworthy|
|scared of people|
|no more self-confidence|
|feeling of being had|
|feeling of oneself not having being respected in his beliefs|
|feeling of not being able to express oneself enough|
"I could constantly
hear welling up in my brain the words, 'Sex is wrong. Love is wrong.'