Extended Insights
Extended Insights

Nov 20, 2008, 07:53

Notes by Stephen Migden Ph.D., ABPP

On October 20, senior staff from Oxbow Academy met with a group of New York based mental health professionals to discuss the residential treatment of boys with sexual behavior problems. The conference, at the Melville Marriott, in Melville, NY, was arranged by Steve Migden, educational consultant in Roslyn Heights, NY and the East Coast Liaison for Woodbury Reports. Oxbow, a residential treatment center based in Wales, UT that offers specialized residential treatment for adolescent boys who have inappropriate sexual behavior, was represented by Steve Schultz, Shawn Brooks and Heather Green.

The conference, by invitation only, was attended by psychologists, psychiatric social workers and probation officers who specialize in working with sexually inappropriate youth. The professionals in attendance all practice in Nassau and Suffolk counties, the two suburban counties of Long Island, NY.

Hosted by Steve Schultz, who directs the marketing program for Oxbow, the meeting featured presentations by Shawn Brooks, the executive director of Oxbow, and Heather Green, LCSW, the program's clinical director. Shawn and Heather discussed issues in the residential and clinical treatment of sexually inappropriate boys, with a particular focus on the unique aspects of the treatment program provided at Oxbow.

Shawn, who has been at Oxbow since its founding, emphasized the importance of providing an integrated treatment milieu in which residential and clinical professionals support each other, while all work together to achieve overall program goals. He also focused on the important role that the peer group plays in a well-functioning residential program, illustrating his presentation with videotapes of interviews with some Oxbow residents.

Heather described the clinical assessment and treatment model used at Oxbow. Drawing on her prior experiences with adult sexual offenders and adjudicated youth in publicly funded programs, as well as her more recent experiences at Oxbow (which serves private pay clients), Heather emphasized that sexually inappropriate youth have unique treatment needs requiring highly specialized treatment. She stated they should not be placed in programs designed to provide treatment to other types of adolescent behavior problems, such as substance abuse or oppositionalism.

In her presentation, Heather addressed a number of other topics in the treatment of this population, including the clinical use of the polygraph and the clinical process of reuniting the sexually inappropriate boy with his victim. She also described the treatment of the victim-less sexually inappropriate boy, such as those who are addicted to pornography. The New York area professionals who attended the meeting seemed particularly interested in the therapeutic use of horses at Oxbow. Most reported that, prior to the meeting, they had been completely unaware of equine therapy.

One highlight of the meeting was the group's discussion of the all-important differences between sexually inappropriate youth and adult sexual offenders. All seemed to agree that the mass media and courts have too often failed to recognize this difference to the detriment of boys who have sexual behavior problems. Both the mental health professionals and the probation officers who were present agreed, that one result of this was an unfortunate focus on punishment for sexually inappropriate teens rather than on the specialized treatment that they need.

Following the meeting, Steve Migden announced that he has plans to organize a similar conference next year.

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