Sex offender therapy pilot program begins in Whitehorse
Nine men are enrolled in the first therapy program of its kind in the territory.
Nine sex offenders in Yukon are the first participants in a new pilot therapy program in the territory, aimed at helping offenders "manage or change emotions, thoughts, and behaviours."
Leah White, the manager of offender supervision and services for the territorial government, said the Forensic Sex Offender Program began several weeks ago in Whitehorse. The program uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help offenders better understand their thoughts and emotions.
"There is the empathy and victim awareness," said White. "There is intimacy and relationship and social functioning, there is emotional well-being, sexual arousal and fantasy, self-management is a huge one, which is around working with the individual, how to make sure that I have an understanding of what I have responsibility for."
The offenders — the program has two groups: four at the correctional centre and five serving community sentences — receive a combination of group and individual therapy weekly.
White says it's based on best practices in other Canadian jurisdictions.
"I can't say that the community will be safer or not safer, what I can say is that we're providing skills to individuals who will be able to manage their behaviours and manage their risks in the community.
"What I always say is if we can assist a client in understanding how to keep themselves safe, how to manage their own risks, how to really look at their thinking errors which bring them to sexual re-offending, then that will keep other individuals safe in the community," White said. "But there is never a guarantee, it depends on what the individual wants to bring to it."
The therapy fits in between two existing programs, she said: the assessment phase, when decisions are made about the needs and risks of individual offenders; and the sex offender maintenance program, which is intended to maintain and build on any progress made.
Weekly sessions run until the end of the offender's sentence, whether it's served in the jail or the community as part of a probation order.
There is no set time for the pilot therapy program to end. White said it will be evaluated as it goes along.