The treatment of the pedophile is imperative when considering that, left untreated, the pedophile can victimize hundreds of children during his lifetime . Unfortunately, a primary complication in the effective treatment of pedophiles is the stigma that is attached with pedophilia in both the mental health arena as well as in society as a whole. The fact that pedophiles are generally shy an unassertive, strive to conceal their obsession with children and generally hold the belief that there is nothing wrong with their actions only works to intensify this problem by further discouraging them from seeking treatment.
Although treatment for convicted pedophiles is mandated by law in most states, it is generally unpopular and under-funded. Even more, there is no strong empirical evidence that the treatments employed to this point have been successful in controlling or eliminating the pedophile’s sexual interest in and obsession with children.
Among the approaches to treatment that have been employed however is the method of treating the pedophile for post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of child abuse however this treatment clearly relies on establishing that the pedophile was actually a victim of child abuse. Another approach to treatment recognizes pedophilia as an addiction that requires the support of a 12-step program like other orders of addiction. Psychodymanic therapy has been employed to assist the pedophile in developing some sort of insight into the childhood needs and conflicts that might have contributed to his behavior however this, like the other treatments presented have not been widely used or carefully tested in order to determine their effectiveness.
One of the most recent advances in the treatment of pedophiles however has been found in the effectiveness of group therapy, which employs a number of methods for developing self-control and changing the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of pedophiles. These methods include imaginal desensitization, a method in which the pedophile is encouraged to describe sexual situations in detail while practicing muscle relaxation techniques designed to suppress the sexual urge and allow him to tolerate the associated discomfort . Another method employed during the group session is covert sensitization, a method in which the pedophile practices imagining the consequences of his behavior including public exposure as well as imprisonment.
An example of how this works is demonstrated by the pedophile who imagines going to a baseball field to look for a boy victim and then thinks instead about being arrested and losing his job . Group therapy also often employs victim empathy training, which involves encouraging the pedophile to read writings by people who have been abused by sexual offenders or to view video tapes of victims talking about their experiences. The pedophile is then asked to write the scenarios that he has read or listened to from the perspectives of both the perpetrator and the child victim. The pedophile is encouraged to practice each of these methods that have been employed in group therapy even after the cessation of his treatment in order to perpetuate his improvement and continued control over his sexual thoughts and urges.