The construction and validation of a scale to assess psychological risk and well-being in sex offender treatment providers

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Purpose. Since 1991 over 1,400 Prison Service personnel have been trained in the delivery of therapeutic interventions with men convicted of sexual abuse. In that time anecdotal evidence of psychological difficulties experienced by treatment providers has emerged. However, empirical support for this evidence is sparse, and reflects a disproportionately low level of research into the impact on treatment providers of their work when compared with the efficacy of the treatment they deliver. One of the consistent shortcomings of the available research has been the lack of a valid and reliable psychometric assessment of the psychological well-being of treatment providers, and this paper reports on the construction and validation of a scale designed to assess the personal and professional effects of working therapeutically with sex offenders.

Method. A scenario technique was used to elicit items. Exploratory factor analysis of the responses of 182 active facilitators yielded a three-factor scale comprising 61 items. The structure was replicated on an independent sample of 165 facilitators.

Results. Negative reactivity to offenders (NRO) described generally adverse responses to offenders, ruminative vulnerability (RV) was characterized by emotional pre-occupation with work and increasing sensitivity to emotional issues, and organizational dissatisfaction (OD) included items relating to lack of collegial and managerial support. Concurrent validation showed that the three factors were systematically related to a range of relevant variables.

Conclusion. The new assessment of dynamic adaptation (ADA) scale should provide an invaluable tool for evaluating the effectiveness of SOTP training programmes.

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