Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Rehabilitation and Counselor Education

First Advisor

Estrada-Hernandez, Noel

First Committee Member

Tarvydas, Vilia

Second Committee Member

Sanchez, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

Wojciak, Armeda

Fourth Committee Member

Duys, David


Sex Offender Treatment Programming (SOTP) is a specific treatment intervention aimed at reducing recidivism through cognitive behavioral modification of known risk factors for sexual offending. SOTP provided in criminal justice or correctional settings and contexts presents unique ethical challenges and experiences for traditionally trained mental health counselors due to competing and differing roles, priorities, and stakeholders. SOTP in criminal justice or correctional settings is in some instances provided by professionally licensed or certified and traditionally trained mental health practitioners; and such settings can challenge traditional ethical standards and practices. A study was conducted utilizing qualitative phenomenology in order to investigate the ethical experiences of mental health practitioners providing SOTP in criminal justice settings. Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with six professionally licensed or certified practitioners who were currently providing (or had recently provided) SOTP in criminal justice settings. Analysis of the data revealed thirty codes and six prevailing themes: unexpected entrance into the field of SOTP; ethical limits; role incongruence; competing obligations; imbalance between rehabilitation and community safety; and line of demarcation (“the line”). The essence of participant experiences was determined to be: who is the client? Meaning, participants identified ethical experiences that at their core indicated difficulty identifying to whom ethical obligations were owed. A model depicting the process of ethical experiences described by participants providing SOTP in criminal justice settings is offered. Future research questions and potential, related research projects are described. Implications for practice, counselor preparation, and research are summarized. The results of the present study may provide greater insight into a subject with limited research, while providing information for practitioners that may aid their ability to navigate complex ethical situations.


Criminal Justice Settings, Ethics, Mental Health Practitioners, Sex Offenders, Sex Offender Treatment


xv, 228 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 198-215).


Copyright © 2019 Michael Esteban Gerald