Finding a psychologist

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance it’s because you experience attraction to children, too. Maybe you’ve got that attraction under control and have no inclination to act on it. But what if it’s a struggle? Where can you get help?

The most valuable thing my lawyer did for me – possibly more valuable than representing me in court – was to refer me to a psychologist. One who has a great deal of experience working with a variety of offenders, so I knew she wasn’t going to flinch at my story. (Though that didn’t make the first session any less nerve-racking!) She also works with a lot of victims, so has a well-rounded perspective.

In one of our early sessions, she asked why I had never sought psychological help before. I admitted that one of the reasons was uncertainty about the reaction. And in particular, the implication in terms of mandatory reporting. I’m not necessarily against mandatory reporting, but I recognise that it’s a powerful disincentive for people wanting help.

Even though I had no reasons to believe that my story (pre-offending) would trigger mandatory reporting, how could I be sure? What if I got a psychologist who couldn’t deal with the subject matter and felt it his duty to “do something”?

The reality is that, here in Victoria, Australia at least, mandatory reporting obligations apply when there is a direct risk to one or more specific individuals. A good psychologist is not going to report you if you’re seeking help to avoid offending in the first place. And if you have offended, you can start by asking about reporting obligations: “I have something on my mind, but I’m concerned about confidentiality; what do I need to know?” Chances are they’ll explain exactly what will trigger a mandatory reporting obligation, at which point you can make an informed decision about how much to divulge.

So, how do you find a good psychologist, if you don’t have a word of mouth referral from a criminal defence lawyer or someone else? I’d suggest using starting with the Find A Psychologist tool on the Australian Psychological Society website, or whatever the equivalent is in your area. The APS site lets you specify an issue. Select “Sex Offenders”, even if you haven’t offended, as this will help you find someone with subject matter expertise, rather than a regular psychologist who is only used to dealing with depression and anxiety.

Don’t be put off by their specialisation in treating sex offenders. Therapy is primarily about helping you to strengthen coping strategies and create a stable life. It’s not about unfairly judging you, or about insisting that you fight to repress your sexual desires entirely. The key is helping you control your behaviour.

Reaching out is a big, daunting task, especially if it’s a preventative step, rather than a reaction to being arrested. But it does get easier after the first session. I’ve found therapy invaluable, and I hope you do, too. Just remember that the therapist-client relationship is the most important part of any treatment, so if you don’t gel with your psychologist, cut your losses early and get a referral to another one. Good luck!

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