The evidence is in, and there’s no doubt. Psychotherapy works for a wide range of conditions and behaviors. People can and do change, often suddenly and unpredictably. Among the most effective mechanisms for change is the most ancient and fundamental approach: the human conversation.
Why even mention this? Those working in the fields of violence and trauma (including sexual abuse) too often believe that people who harm others are either unwilling or unable to change, despite decades of evidence. Too many professionals argue over lesser findings or ask the wrong questions. While searching for the randomized controlled trial showing that treatment can reduce risk, we overlook other findings, such as that people who complete programs very commonly have lower rates of re-offense. What can we learn from these studies? And more importantly, from the clients that can inform our approaches? There are entire bodies of research in psychotherapy, criminology, and education that go unnoticed and under-discussed.