"Identifying and Describing Emotions": Measuring the Effectiveness of a Brief, Alexithymia-Specific, Intervention for a Sex Offender Population

Sex Abuse. 2016 Oct;28(7):599-619. doi: 10.1177/1079063214558940. Epub 2014 Nov 23.


Certain individuals who sexually offend may have difficulty differentiating, identifying, and articulating emotions. These clients may prove challenging for therapists when engaging with them in treatment. Such clients may suffer from alexithymia. There has been a dearth of research regarding specific psychotherapeutic interventions for alexithymia in both the clinical and forensic fields. The present study provides results from a pilot study on the efficacy of a brief, four-session, alexithymia-specific intervention with adults who have sexually offended. The intervention also aimed to increase emotional awareness and psychological mindedness. The intervention was comprised of both mindfulness and mentalization treatment components. Thirty-two men (Mage = 41.8 years, SD = 11.9) convicted of sexual offences completed the intervention group. When compared with a matched control condition (n = 27; Mage = 39, SD = 10.8), the intervention was effective in decreasing alexithymia characteristics and increasing psychological mindedness. Results suggest that the intervention was an effective means of increasing emotional awareness in this population. These provisional results must be tempered by the limitations of the study. However, the positive findings warrant future investigation. Clinical implications and ideas for future work are also discussed.

Keywords: sexual deviance; sexual interests; treatment effectiveness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Affective Symptoms / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Offenses / psychology*
  • Young Adult