Gains made from CBT for men with learning disabilities and sexually abusive behaviour maintained at longer-term follow up

A well constructed trial adding to growing evidence base for effectiveness of CBT for people with mild to moderate learning disabilities

Cognitive behavioural therapy has been recognised as the leading method of treatment for non-disabled men who have committed sexual offences, but men with learning disabilities are often excluded from such treatment groups. However, there is a growing body of evidence of the effectiveness of this approach for men with learning disabilities as well.

There have been few follow ups of these studies, and the researchers in this study set out to look at what had happened to a number of men with learning disabilities who had attended group cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) for sexually abusive behaviour.


What they did was identify thirty-four men from seven different treatment sites who had undergone cognitive behavioural therapy and looked at current outcomes .

All of the men had attended groups run by SOTSEC-ID, the Sex Offender Treatment Services Collaborative based at the Tizard Centre in Kent. ()
The mean length of follow-up, since the end of the treatment group, was 44 months (SD 28.7, range 15–106 months).


Gains from CBT were maintained at follow up

Gains from CBT were maintained at follow up

What they found was that the statistically significant improvements in sexual knowledge, empathy and cognitive distortions which had been outcomes  of the treatment  had been maintained at follow-up.

Eleven of the thirty four men had shown further sexually abusive behaviour, with two receiving convictions.

When they looked at which variables might be associated with further sexually abusive behaviour, they found an association with a diagnosis of autism.


The authors conclude that the study provides evidence of the longer-term effectiveness of group cognitive behavioural therapy for men with learning disabilities and sexually abusive behaviour.


Men with Intellectual Disabilities who have Attended Sex Offender Treatment Groups: A Follow-Up, Heaton K & Murphy G, in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 26: 489–500

Sex Offender Treatment Services Collaborative – Based at the Tizard Centre, University of Kent at Canterbury




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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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