Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 17, No. 2, April 2005 (
What Happens in Therapy with Sexual Offenders?
A Model of Process Research
and Erhard Mergenthaler
This paper presents two studies (one single case and one comparative study) ex-
amining change processes within individual therapy sessions as well as during the
course of treatment. The Therapeutic Cycle Model (TCM), developed for general
psychotherapy to objectify change events in the course of psychotherapies, is ap-
plied to transcribed tape recordings of therapy sessions with sexual offenders. The
TCM focuses on emotional experience and cognitive mastery and uses computer
assisted text analysis. In addition to the TCM approach clinical ratings are used as
independent criteria. The predicted relationship between the phases of the TCM
and scores on the respective scales of the clinical ratings were supported.
KEY WORDS: therapeutic process research; sex offenders.
Recent meta-analyses have demonstrated that treatment reduces relapse rates
among sexual offenders (Hall, 1995; Hanson & Bussi
ere, 1998; R
uther, 1998) but
it remains unclear just what processes generate these beneﬁts. The present paper
reports two studies that attempt to provide some answers to this question. Treat-
ment offered in most clinical and criminological settings (Marshall, Anderson,
& Fernandez, 1999; Marshall, Fernandez, Hudson, & Ward, 1998) aim at modi-
fying cognitive distortions and various behavioral deﬁcits, as well as developing
empathy for the victim, and enabling the client to acquire prosocial skills. Proce-
dures have been developed to produce these changes and there is some evidence
that these procedures achieve their goals. However it is not clear what processes
occurring during treatment facilitate these changes.
Department of Forensic Psychotherapy, University of Ulm, Germany.
Department of Informatics in Psychotherapy, University of Ulm, Germany.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Sektion Informatik in der Psychotherapie, Universit
at, Am Hochstr
aß 8, 89081 Ulm, Germany; e-mail: email@example.com.
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.