The emergence of workbooks to guide the treatment of sexually abusive
youth certainly marked the beginning of the modern age for understanding
and treating this population. Many of us have fond memories of using
curricula such as Timothy Kahn’s Pathways until the pages came
right off the spiral binding. With the first generations of these
workbooks came new thought into the patterns of offensive behavior
by youth, including
the cycles described by Gail Ryan and Sandy Lane in Juvenile Sexual
While much of the earliest treatment of sexually abusive youth were
guided by existing interventions with their adult counterparts, many
of these same authors and practitioners struggled to create new ways
of understanding youth whose development and personalities are dynamic
and unfolding. As Prentky and Righthand recently observed, juveniles
may best be considered “moving targets” when it comes to
understanding risk. Lately, advances in understanding therapeutic process
and outcome have led many to reconsider their approach to treatment.
These advances include narrative methods as well as developments in
understanding attachment and trauma. Finally, research indicating that
youth are often more likely to recidivate non-sexually has also caused
many to re-think their treatment targets.
Against this backdrop, Joann Schladale has developed a curriculum
that is challenging in its simplicity and youth-centered to its core.
borrows from the work of Alan Jenkins (author of Invitations to Responsibility)
and Lucinda Rasmussen et al, whose 1992 article on the “Trauma
Outcome Process” re-cast the familiar sexual assault cycle within
a broader framework of self-victimization and recovery cycles. A key
to understanding this process is in awareness of “trauma echoes”,
described by Rasmussen and her colleagues as “messages from the
perpetrator occurring near the time of abuse which the victim adopts
as his/her own cognitions”.
While this workbook includes the discussions of, abuse, power, secrecy,
anger, and other elements that one would expect, Schladale emphasizes
the strength and courage it takes for youth to become the person they
want to be. Going beyond relapse prevention, Schladale focuses on the
youth’s future, capacity for self-care, and ability to construct
a better life. Schladale stresses compassion in addition to empathy,
and includes sections on attending to one’s pain, making amends
to others, and staying grounded in the present.
The format includes brief discussions of key topics followed by a
repeating set of questions for the youth to consider. The questions
open-ended and supportive, allowing the youth bring their own perspective
and understanding into dialog. Schladale makes no assumptions regarding “the
problem”, “the answer”, or even that there is a single
route to a healthy, non-abusive life. If a primary factor separating
adolescent from adult sexual abusers is the development of youth, this
workbook’s greatest asset is its ability to join with that development
and re-connect youth with their own prosocial values.
The T.O.P. Workbook is easily accessible to most youth. Its approach
is invitational and never confrontational or accusatory. Those who
have grappled with simplifying such terms as “abstinence violation effect” will
find a book that is easily handed to youth “as is”. In fact,
this may come as a surprise to many. While a number of workbooks guide
the treatment provider in constructing interventions, Schladale’s
focus, including the page set-up, is entirely focused on engaging the
youth. Those using it need to be well-versed in the concepts addressed.
As a result, this workbook is not a stand-alone educational experience
for the novice treatment provider. Rather, it is a benevolent structure
for hard work.
Editor’s note: Many thanks to Janis Bremer of Project Pathfinder
in Minnesota, who made several contributions to this review.
Jenkins, A. (1991). Invitations to Responsibility: The Therapeutic Engagement
of Men who are Violent and Abusive. Adelaide, South Australia: Dulwich
Prentky, R., & Righthand, S. (2003). Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment
Protocol – II. Document available at www.csom.org.
Rasmussen, L., Burton, J., and Christopherson, B. (1992). Precursors
to offending and the trauma outcome process. Journal of Child Sexual
Abuse, 1 (1), 33-48.