Book Review:
The Self-Regulation Model of the Offense and Relapse Process: A Manual Volume 2: Treatment

by Tony Ward, Pamela M. Yates, and Carmen A. Long
Published 2006 by Trafford Publishing
246 pages
Available for $65 (US & CDN, plus GST in Canada)

Review by David Prescott, Forum Editor
Appeared in The ATSA Forum Newsletter, Winter 2007

Until now, writings on the good lives and self-regulation models have not included a treatment manual of practical utility. For this reason, The Self-Regulation Model of the Offense and Relapse Process, Volume II will be of great interest to those working directly with men who have sexually abused. Those at the front lines of treatment will find this a very important “how-to” resource.

Tony Ward’s contributions to understanding sexual offenders have gained currency in recent years. His works (most recently with co-authors including Devon Polaschek, Tony Beech, Richard Laws, and the late Stephen Hudson) are thoughtful, comprehensive, and have brought the good lives and self-regulation models to a wider audience. Although no brief description can adequately describe these models, they hold that sexual offenders follow distinctly different pathways to offense and relapse, and that treatment can be more successful when it promotes goals that a person can work towards rather than avoid.

The volume opens with a description of the good lives model, which differentiates between the primary goods that all human beings seek (such as knowledge, competence at play and work, autonomy, inner peace, friendship, community, spirituality, happiness, and creativity) and secondary goods (the means for attaining primary goods). The good lives perspective emphasizes cohesive personal identity and psychological well being, assuming that treatment is a value-laden process that considers the characteristics of the offender and the context in which he will live. A good-lives treatment plan therefore includes these aspects.

The authors next discuss the self-regulation model, differentiating four pathways to offense: avoidant-passive, avoidant-active, approach-automatic, and approach-explicit. This model recognizes that some sexual offenders have no desire to give up their offending and might abuse for very different reasons than others. The authors devote one chapter to each of these pathways and introduce a phase model for each. Tasks include increasing the offender’s awareness of how he interprets events based on core beliefs, determining exactly what he hopes to achieve with his behavior, deciding which primary goods are most relevant for him, and examining the means by which he has attempted to meet them. Professionals can understand risk factors as misdirected attempts to attain these goods (e.g., impulsivity can signal difficulties in achieving autonomy). Treatment of skills deficits takes place through rehearsal of cognitive and behavioral responses to events that activate negative affect.

The self-regulation model is both familiar and challenging. The authors note that many newcomers to the good lives model believe they already focus on having offenders develop a better life for themselves. However, this volume’s phase model goes well beyond casting relapse prevention in a broader light. Each chapter provides clinically meaningful tasks that respect each pathway’s differences. There are brief sections addressing the context (prison or community) in which treatment takes place as well as implications for supervision. Following the introduction of phase-based treatment for each pathway, subsequent chapters provide case examples for treatment for each pathway. While some previous writings on the self-regulation model have appeared more slanted towards those who have molested children, this volume clearly addresses all who engage in sexual violence.

This volume is the first practical application of the good lives and self-regulation models, and is therefore an important contribution to the field. Written for treatment providers, it is an excellent introduction to practical application these models. Because of its place early in the evolution of these models, it therefore has a number of shortcomings of which readers should be aware. For example, while advocating a more holistic approach than was typical in the past, the manual does not directly address other problems common to the treatment of sexual offenders, such as psychiatric comorbidity or adaptation for special populations (such as people with high levels of psychopathy or low intelligence). In addition, because the manual’s stated goal of treatment is to prevent reoffense, professionals collaborating with outside agencies may note the absence of discussion on how treatment might provide amends or assistance to victims. Many consider this a core feature of sexual offender treatment; professionals addressing family reconciliation and reunification may not find the specifics they want in this text.

Deliberately designed for use in diverse settings, professionals may face challenges in its application to some settings. Its emphasis on respect for – and collaboration with – sexual offenders may create problems for practitioners attempting to implement it in settings that have traditionally used harsh and confrontational approaches. It may well be that some professionals will have to work with their administrations to tailor the culture of their settings to support the guiding values of treatment within these models.

Although no newer model can be a panacea, this volume is clearly an important new contribution for our field’s further exploration and study. It is clear, well written, and will doubtless be an essential guide to models that have emerged as important developments in recent years. Like its companion volume (which focuses on assessment), it provides a collaborative and comprehensive means of understanding a population that lay people often find incomprehensible.