Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Clinical Psychology Competencies

pp 1063-1094

Sexual Offenders

  • Robert A. PrentkyAffiliated withFairleigh Dickinson University
  • , Adeena M. GabrielAffiliated withFairleigh Dickinson University
  • , Anna I. CowardAffiliated withFairleigh Dickinson University


A small but growing niche of clinical practice involves services provided to sexual offenders, typically within the criminal justice system. This is an emotionally, and ethically, challenging area of practice that has, for all practical purposes, been unregulated, with the sole exception of the efforts of one professional organization (Association for Treatment of Sexual Abusers). Given the unusual demands placed on the clinicians working with sex offenders, and the high stakes nature of their work (providing effective treatment for clients disposed to committing sexual offenses, and offering evaluative judgments about the risk posed by these clients), it would seem reasonable to expect that this area of practice would be well regulated. As noted, this appears not to be the case. In this chapter we provide a framework for establishing guidelines for professional competence at two levels of practice – basic and expert. Our mission is not to provide an end product, but rather a blueprint to initiate dialogue and, in so doing, a process that will eventuate in a uniformly adopted standard for professional competence in this area.