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The importance of the therapeutic alliance when working with men who have committed a sexual offence

Carollyne Youssef (Corrective Services NSW, Australia) (Deakin University, Burwood, Australia)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Article publication date: 7 August 2017




While there is general agreement in the literature regarding the importance of the therapeutic alliance (TA) in psychological interventions with people, the forensic context raises some unique challenges. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how these challenges are managed within a therapeutic context.


This paper consists of a literature review examining the following: the significance of the TA in interventions with forensic clients, especially men who have committed a sexual offence and the impact on treatment efficacy and change; therapist characteristics as well as some of the obstacles and challenges present in a correctional setting, which can impact on the TA and; the role of transference and countertransference in relation to these forensic clients.


Through the literature review, there is a discussion regarding how some of the common obstacles within correctional settings can be overcome, and how certain therapist qualities should be interpreted.


This paper will discuss some of the practical applications of certain recommended therapeutic factors within a correctional setting, challenging some of the common misconceptions and limitations. Furthermore, transference and countertransference, topics which are seldom discussed, will be considered in this paper.



Youssef, C. (2017), "The importance of the therapeutic alliance when working with men who have committed a sexual offence", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 206-220.



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