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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 5, No. 2
June 2000

The Impact of Working with Sex Offenders

Evidence exists that therapists who work with sex offenders are significantly affected personally by their work (Farrenkopf, 1992). Over half of participants in a study had diminished hopes and expectations in working with sex offenders and felt their outlook had become more cynical and pessimistic after having seen the darker side of humans. The study revealed four phases of impact that resemble the trauma/grief process.

  1. Shock: highlighted by feelings of fear and vulnerability

  2. Mission: client empathy, non-judgemental work, and desensitization to the offenses

  3. Anger: intolerance of offending behavior, loss of professional idealism

  4. Erosion: resentment, thoughts of futility, exhaustion, and depression leading to burnout; or Adaptation, more detached attitude, lowering of expectations, tolerance of human dark side.


Farrenkopf, T. (1992). What happens to therapists who work with sex offenders? In Coleman, E., Dwyer, S. M., & Pallone, N. J. (Eds.), Sex Offender Treatment: Psychological and Medical Approaches (pp. 217-223). New York: Haworth Press.

2000 Jordan Institute for Families