Treatment of Paedophilia

Often I write sensitive content. In this case I am discussing sexual abuse against children. Even if you feel brave, or have moved beyond a previous trauma, I would ask you not to read this post. The old idea of reliving past experiences to move past them has proven to be inneffective, and this post may contribute to bringing up issues you have moved beyond. Additionally, this post and upcoming posts I would ask you not to share widely elsewhere for the same reason.

Challenging peoples perception through conversations and with my work on paedophilia, I aimed for a time to create something that spoke directly to paedophiles. The document in its final form reads that way, but it isn’t the truth ultimately. It is written this way to give empathy to the paedophiles who cannot directly be approached.

I saw the value in creating a probe by engaging with numerous people with evidence outside of just conversation. This probe is a device that acts as a prompt, a conversation starter, or a conversation continuer. Unlike a questionnaire it aims to get at the information you couldn’t have come to on your own with presumptions. A probe allows people to tell stories that are unexpected. This document then raises new questions where conversations on paedophilia would previously end.

But no it not for communicating to or for paedophiles. They need anonymity to survive in this country, and coming forward isn’t an option. This isn’t like coming out as homosexual, it’s entirely illegal, and the treatment for those who do come forward is shocking. Consider the simple example of approaching a psychologist for attraction to children. The place confidentiality ends is where the psychologist thinks there is a risk to the person themselves or the community. If you are at risk of killing somebody, assaulting somebody, or yourself, the confidentiality ends. The psychologist, rightly, needs to cover themselves to. If they were to have been aware of the paedophilic urges of a person who acted, it’s their job on the line as well.

By not being able to come forward and be treated, people self help, and it doesn’t work, meaning paedophiles are more likely to offend. By self help I’m not referring to picking up Tony Robbins or Tim Ferriss books. One example involves masturbating to heterosexual pornography with people of a legal age or older appearance. It is true of some young homosexual men as well, masturbating to “un-gay” or “straighten” themselves. It seems daft to be frank. But psychologists tried a similar approach for many years historically. Somewhat A Clockwork Orange style people would be subjected to appropriate stimulation and forced to masturbate. They would then be retested later to see if they were still attracted to inappropriate stimulus later, intrusively measuring the girth of the penis when placed with certain stimulus.

The more extreme version is something I have heard works for smoking. Instead of trying to quit progressively, you smoke a pack or more in as short a time as possible until you’re sick in an effort to make you never want another cigarette again. You can imagine the equivalent with paedophilia and the pornographic stimulus that would be involved. Needless to say there is no evidence to suggest this will work.

What does work is difficult to attain as there is very little study done on paedophiles who haven’t offended. Making it harder still are the beneficiaries of treatment options. Seretonin for a simple example has been used as a predictor of depression and mood for many recent years. This is obviously to the benefit of the drug companies as they can treat for a biochemical predictor. Studies and emphasis have moved to genetics and environmental causes. But this works at the same time to market genetic research and psychologists.

The most effective treatment may be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT, which focuses on environmental predictors, acceptance of faults, and managing life daily. After gestalt therapies and older long term therapies, there was evidence to suggest that reliving previous experiences stopped being of benefit, if not making things worse in many cases.

CBT works for many reasons and is one of the most viable options with more evidence showing that multi-modal delivery is effective. That means you can be online on a program, or reading a book and managing your own therapy with a diary. But there is also the cost benefit that may sway evidence. Institutions want less face to face time if possible to lower costs, and why treat one patient when you can create a system to treat many? Multi-modal CBT in my opinion, not being a psychologist but a designer, is the best shot a paedophile would currently have, but it is a poor solution in the scheme of things.

As long as we’re still hunting for witches when it comes to paedophilia, it remains the most viable option in the interim. In the next post I will suggest what may come afterwards.