Therapists' Perceptions of Their Encounter with Sex Offenders

Haneen Elias*, Muhammad M. Haj-Yahia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Despite the increasing interest in therapists' responses to their encounter with sex offenders, there is a lack of research on their subjective perceptions of this encounter and on their experience working with this client population. The study presented in this article is part of a larger qualitative research project conducted among 19 social workers (12 were women and 7 were men; their ages ranged from 30 to 66 years; 15 of them were Jewish and 4 were Arab). In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine their attitudes toward and perceptions of their encounter with sex offenders. The questions related to the therapists' perceptions regarding motives for committing sex offenses, therapists' perceptions of sex offenders, therapists' perceptions of the victims of sex offenders, and therapists' perceptions of the nature of their professional role. In this article, emphasis is placed on the development and changes of the therapists' perceptions following that encounter. The following five major domains of perceptions were revealed in the study: Therapists' perceptions of the offenders' personal motives for committing sex offenses, therapists' perceptions of sex offenders, therapists' perceptions of the experience of victimization, the process of changing perceptions, and the nature of the therapists' role. The results are discussed in light of Ajzen's conceptualization of the process of acquiring beliefs. The limitations of the study as well as its implications for future research and for shaping the perceptions of therapists toward sex offenders are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1151-1170
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2016.


  • perceptions
  • sex offender therapists
  • sex offenders
  • sexual abuse


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