Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] pp1003-sebu-474120 November 14, 2003 17:1 Style ﬁle version Nov 28th, 2002
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 16, No. 1, January 2004 (
Approach Versus Avoidance Goals in Relapse
Prevention With Sexual Offenders
Ruth E. Mann,
Stephen D. Webster,
and William L. Marshall
Relapse prevention (RP) plays a major role in the vast number of treatment pro-
grams for sexual offenders. However, despite its widespread application, questions
have been raised regarding the uncritical adoption of the approach (R. K. Hanson,
1996). More speciﬁcally, the way in which it is presented to sexual offenders has
been criticized for being unhelpfully negative in focus (Mann, 2000) and it has
been suggested that treatment should adopt a broader focus on improving quality
of life (T. Ward and C. A. Stewart, 2003), with the expectationthat recidivism would
reduce as a side-effect. The current study evaluated two orientations to relapse
prevention, comparing a deliberately positively-focused orientation, focusing on
creating a “good life,” to the more traditional approach that focuses on avoiding
and controlling risk factors. Twenty-four participants completed an approach-
focused RP intervention and 23 completed an avoidance-focused RP intervention.
Results indicated that participants who completed the approach-focused interven-
tion had a greater engagement in treatment as measured by homework compliance
and willingness to disclose lapses. Furthermore, participants within the approach-
focused intervention were rated by therapist to be more genuinely motivated to live
life without offending by the end of treatment. However, differences between the
groups in terms of self-esteem change following treatment were not very marked.
These results are discussed in terms of their implications for treatment delivery.
KEY WORDS: relapse prevention; approach-focused intervention; avoidance-focused intervention.
Offending Behavior Programs Unit, HM Prison Service, London, England.
HM Prison Wakeﬁeld, West Yorkshire, England.
Department of Psychology, Queens University, Ontario, Canada.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at HM Prison Service, SOTP, Room 725 Abell House,
John Islip Street, London SW1P 4LH, England; e-mail: ruth.mann:hmps.gsi.gov.uk.
2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation