Victim empathy-based content in aggression treatment: exploring impact within a secure forensic hospital

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Forensic Practice, 2021, 23, (2), pp. 150-163
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Purpose: This study aims to explore the impact of inclusion of victim empathy-based content in offender treatment. Design/methodology/approach: This study first presents a systematic review of 20 papers before proceeding to consider qualitative interviews with therapists (n = 7) and forensic patients (n = 5), who had completed a long-term violence therapy (Life Minus Violence – Enhanced, LMV-E©). The research explored perceptions of forensic patients and treatment facilitators when completing victim empathy work and explored any negative effects this may have. Findings: Findings from the systematic review indicated five themes: interventions incorporating victim empathy can be effective; there are positive risk-understanding consequences from completing victim empathy work; offenders perceive victim empathy positively; the emotional impact of victim empathy work on offenders’ is poorly explored; and completing victim empathy in treatment groups receives mixed evaluations from offenders. The systematic review was used to inform the interview themes for the resulting qualitative study with facilitators and forensic patients. This study indicated six themes: victim empathy content facilitates change; victim empathy content can be difficult for patients; victim empathy content can lead to an emotional response; victim empathy content can be beneficial, with the process important; victim empathy content can help understand risk, and patients’ experience of treatment begins before attending sessions. Practical implications: The potential impact of victim empathy content needs to be evaluated before sessions are completed, accounting for client expectations and treatment readiness. This should include ensuring that appropriate support is in place. Any support provided to patients should be regularly reviewed. Originality/value: The study represents the first to apply detailed analysis to this topic area and with a complex group.
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