Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment [saj] pp325-sebu-363775 March 6, 2002 10:16 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 14, No. 2, April 2002 (
The Report of the Collaborative Outcome Data Project on the Effectiveness
of Psychological Treatment for Sex Offenders will make an important contribution
to the scientiﬁc literature on sex offender treatment. This meta-analysis is the most
comprehensive evaluation of treatment studies to date. The number of subjects is
large and the included studies were examined, sorted, and classiﬁed by type of
design. The report concludes that contemporary cognitive–behavioral treatment
approaches can reduce recidivism. Because this paper is being published in the
journal of the professional society of which the investigators are members we have
been especially rigorous in the peer review process and we offer this commentary.
The question of the effectiveness of sex offender treatment is of great sig-
niﬁcance to the members of ATSA, to others who would deliver treatment to
sex offenders, to victim advocates, to policymakers, and to citizens. All of these
constituencies want the societal response to sex offenders to result in safe commu-
nities. For years, however, there has been controversy about whether sex offender
treatment really works. Many policymakers and citizens are skeptical about claims
for treatment effectiveness and prefer the guarantee for community safety that is
afforded by incarceration. They are reluctant to allow sex offenders to avoid incar-
ceration or be released earlier simply because they receive treatment. Naturally,
ATSAmembersareinclined toviewtreatment morefavorablysince theyare mostly
professionals who are dedicated to providing treatment to sex offenders. They are
genuinely convinced that their efforts have the effect of making communities safer.
It is true that sex offender treatment is sometimes held to an impossibly high
standard; that it will work every time for every recipient. Of course, no psychoso-
cial or medical intervention for any condition is that effective. Even treatments that
are considered highly effective such as antidepressants and cognitive–behavioral
or interpersonal therapy for depression are unsuccessful for many patients. Med-
ication regimens can take a long time to make a difference, have side effects,
often need to be adjusted or replaced, and simply do not work in certain instances.
Harbor view Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress, Seattle, Washington.
2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation