Behavioral Treatment

The goal of behavioral therapy is to reduce deviant sexual arousal and increase nondeviant sexual arousal. All behavioral methods are based on the idea of conditioning--associating pleasant feelings with desired behavior, and associating unpleasant feelings with undesired behavior.[1]

Aversion Therapy

Aversion therapy is the process of linking a previously sexually gratifying stimulus or behavior with an averse or unpleasant sensation such as pain, nausea, or fear. The individual is asked to fantasize about their deviant sexual interest while being presented with aversive stimuli. For example, a patient reads a script of a sexual fantasy involving a child while the therapist presents him with aversive stimuli such as ammonia smelling salts.

Covert Sensitization

Covert sensitization is a physically safer variation of aversion therapy in which both the deviant stimulus and the aversive stimulus are to be imagined and described aloud by the patient, rather than actually experienced.[2] The described aversive situation is required to be an extremely noxious or nauseating scene, feelings of intense shame and guilt, or severe legal consequences.[2]

Masturbatory Reconditioning

Masturbatory reconditioning is a technique based on the principle of classical conditioning. In masturbatory reconditioning the individual uses his anomalous fantasies to achieve arousal, and then he switches to a normal fantasy just before orgasm.[1]

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on findings that many sex offenders in general exhibit aggressive sexual behavior, manipulate others, lack empathy for their victims, and minimize, deny, and rationalize their abusive behavior.[3] Cognitive-behavioral treatment is provided in a group setting and focuses on treating the cognitive distortions, lack of victim empathy, denial of the offense, and deviant sexual preferences of the sex offender. Cognitive therapy focuses on “here and now” thinking, behavior, and communication rather than on past experiences and is oriented toward problem solving.

[1] Langevin, R., Sexual strands: Understanding and treating sexual anomalies in men, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1983.

[2] Maletzky, B., Treating the sexual offender, Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1991.

[3] Hall, G.C.N., Theory-based assessment, treatment, and prevention of sexual aggression, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.