Understanding Denial in Sexual Offenders: A Review of Cognitive and Motivational Processes to Avoid Responsibility

  • Schneider S
  • Wright R
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Treatment of sexual offenders is routinely complicated by the presence of denial. This article examines how denial is related to the willingness to take responsibility for offense-related thoughts and actions and how conceptualizations of denial have developed and changed over time. Multiple facets of denial are described in detail, along with an assessment of how different forms of denial undermine acceptance of responsibility throughout treatment. Evidence is presented to show that resistance and denial often hinge on cognitive and motivational processes that are commonly accepted as fundamental treatment targets rather than treatment obstacles. The authors propose that denial may be best understood as the acceptance of explanations that reduce accountability and are reinforced by distorted beliefs and self-deceptive thinking processes. The article concludes with a discussion of the rich clinical information embedded in different expressions of denial and the benefits of treatment strategies designed to assess and work through them.

Author-supplied keywords

  • FoSOD
  • accountability
  • cognitive distortions
  • denial
  • depersonalization
  • explanations
  • minimization
  • refutation
  • responsibility

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  • Sandra L. Schneider

  • Robert C. Wright

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