“Need more for to get your treatment done. Years.” A qualitative analysis of the views of men with learning disabilities about a sex offender treatment programme
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Background: Evidence for the effectiveness of psychological treatments for sex offenders with learning disabilities is far from overwhelming. Qualitative studies can augment quantitative research by providing insight into the experiences of those who receive such treatment. There are a number of qualitative studies of the views of offenders but few that focus on the views of those with learning disabilities. Method: A systematic review was carried out of qualitative studies of the views of sex offenders, with and without learning disabilities, about their experiences of treatment. An empirical study, using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, explored the views of men with mild learning disabilities about one particular group treatment. Results: The review identified that a supportive atmosphere, good therapeutic relationship, trust and positive peer interactions were highly valued. Some elements of treatment, such as offence disclosure, were seen as both difficult and helpful. In the empirical study, themes regarding offence disclosure and trust were also identified. In addition, treatment was characterised as being about giving and receiving advice. Participants struggled with some of the other concepts used in treatment but described gains including becoming a mentor and developing a sense of mastery. Most strikingly, participants described needing extensive time in treatment in order to gain benefit. Over time they moved from feeling anxious and angry about treatment to feeling positive, supported and trusting. Conclusion: Sex offenders with learning disabilities may need long-term treatment programmes in order to effect change. Treatment providers should be sensitive to offenders’ feelings of initial anxiety and anger.