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Empathy enhancement with sex offenders

15 December 1995


This paper is a review of the literature relevant to the enhancement of empathy with sex offenders. Several areas pertinent to empathy enhancement have been explored in this paper. First, a section providing an overview of empathy covers a brief historical perspective and offers different definitions of empathy. Next, a section on the functions of empathy addresses different roles that have been considered for empathy. Following is a review of measurement of empathy. Included are direct measures of empathy and measurements of characteristics indirectly related to empathy which are specific to sex offenders (i.e., cognitive distortions, deviant sexual arousal). Finally, treatment interventions designed to aid sex offenders in enhancing their empathic abilities are reviewed. Included are reviews of specific interventions and program interventions. The primary conclusion of the paper is that theory and interventions related to sex offender treatment are relatively undeveloped. Consequently, there is a scarcity of adequate theoretical formulations and research. However, there is at least one theoretical model which has potentially good heuristic value. Also, initial research suggests present interventions are promising.


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