Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 18, No. 1, January 2006 (
The Use of Clariﬁcation Sessions in the Treatment
of Incest Victims and Their Families:
An Exploratory Study
Christine M. DeMaio,
Joanne L. Davis,
and Daniel W. Smith
Published online: 21 April 2006
The “clariﬁcation session” has been implicated as an important component of the
treatment of families affected by incest. On the basis of information presented in
clinical literature, however, the speciﬁc nature of this intervention varies widely.
This exploratory study examined the practices and attitudes regarding clariﬁcation
sessions of select members of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.
Surveys were completed by 483 members. Results indicated that approximately
77% of respondents had experience in conducting clariﬁcation sessions. The top
two reported reasons for conducting clariﬁcation sessions were for the perpetrator
to assume all responsibility for the abuse and to decrease the level of self-blame of
the victim. The majority of respondents concurred that several activities needed to
occur prior to the clariﬁcation session, whereas less consensus was indicated for
activities that were deemed essential during the clariﬁcation session. Respondents’
practices, attitudes, and beliefs are discussed in terms of the current state of
limited, empirically based knowledge in this area. Directions for future research
KEY WORDS: clariﬁcation session; incest; sexual perpetrator; sexual abuse; treatment.
Many therapeutic modalities (e.g., individual, group, family) are utilized
in treating families affected by incest. A main focus of treatment interventions,
regardless of modality or who is involved in treatment, is often clariﬁcation of who
is responsible for the occurrence of the abuse. In many cases, treatment programs
require that the perpetrator, and other family members if appropriate, tell the
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
University of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Medical University of South Carolina,
Charleston, South Carolina.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at 600 S. College Avenue, 308C Lorton Hall, University
of Tulsa, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.