It is incredibly difficult to believe that your child might have something “wrong” with them. A sexual attraction to children can sound very much like something is “wrong” with your child, but this is not necessarily the case. While having a sexual attraction to children certainly presents unique challenges, it is very possible to meet these challenges in a way that helps your child know that you love them regardless of the difficulties they face. You are not reading this section because you think that your child is a monster, you are reading this because you want to know how to help your child.
A Word About Facts
It is necessary for you to understand some of the cutting-edge facts about a sexual attraction to children, and each of them fly in the face of the myths that circulate about a sexual attraction to children. The reality is that most of the time we hear about someone with a sexual attraction to children, it is because they were arrested for sexually abusing a child. There is little that is publicly known about those with this attraction who do not abuse children, but they are the majority. The loudest voices in the media are those that are most shocking, and while they certainly are horrifying, they do not reflect the realities found in research. Many of these facts are reflected in the questions section below, but their full citations and additional reading can be found in the facts section about minor attraction. That fact section is an excellent place to start.
Answering Questions You May Have
People do not generally know a lot of information about a sexual attraction to children, partly because it is such a stigmatized condition, and partly because most people simply do not want to know. However, having a loved one who has an attraction to children means that you want to know as much as you can so that you can support them. If you have a loved one who has autism, you research autism. If you have a loved one who has depression, you research depression. The same applies to a sexual attraction to children.
Questions For A Potential Therapist
These questions are very important to be sure you are selecting a knowledgeable and competent therapist who will best help your child.
You want a therapist that is familiar with sexual health, uncommon or paraphilic sexual attractions, or otherwise is a “sex-specific” therapist.
It is helpful for the therapist to be affiliated with an organization, and you can write down what they say and search or ask about any other affiliations to see what those organizations are about.
This information may also be available on their website, if they have one. You want someone with a master’s or higher level education in psychology, and you want the educational institution to be one you recognize or know of.
They should be able to give you a detailed answer. They may have you do tests before you are given a diagnosis, and they may go over a treatment plan with you.
You want at least a few clients, and you want at least a few separate issues, not just the issue that you are potentially seeing the therapist for.
This may seem like an odd question to ask, but answering yes to this question means they will be familiar enough with a sexual attraction to children to be able to help. They will also know when you are and are not at-risk for acting out much better than a therapist with no specific training or experience, and will know how to intervene. A good follow-up question to this is to ask their opinion on how many sexual abusers have pedophilia: A knowledgeable person should say that few, or a third, have pedophilia.
Again, this will help you know if they are familiar enough with these issues to be able to help you.
You want someone who can help you accept your attractions, but also challenge negative thoughts and beliefs. You want a therapist who at least somewhat uses cognitive behavioral therapy, or at least factors cognition into their practice.
Plethysmographs are a specific test to give your therapist an understanding of where your attractions lie. These tests may be disturbing to you, but should not be cause for anxiety. They can help you understand what populations you are most attracted to, but they can also be very uncomfortable.
Arousal reconditioning describes a variety of behavioral methods to change what you are sexually attracted to. You can read more about this method here. These methods are controversial both in terms of effectiveness and ethics, and can be a hotly disputed topic even among therapists. Many therapists do not agree with using this method, as it can cause severe psychological damage and some even consider it to be a form of sexual abuse. It is better to avoid therapists who use this method.
An expert who knows what they are dealing with should say something about accepting yourself and your attractions, understanding the difference between fantasy and action, and be able to give you a good understanding of how they deal with minor attraction. If someone answers yes to the second question, find a different therapist: Most current peer-reviewed research suggests that attempts to change sexual attractions result in harm, and you can do real mental damage to yourself by involving yourself with a therapist who believes they can change your sexual feelings.
Sex-positive is a way of approaching sexual topics to put them in a more positive light. You want them to answer yes. The last thing you need is to be shamed for having sexual attractions you cannot help, or be stuck with a therapist who may try to change them.
Some programs use a team-based approach, and participation in their treatment program might be subject to team decisions about what you are able or unable to participate in. The goal of this question is to get a feel for how their program works, and the goal of any requirements or conditions is for your mental and emotional health.
They should be able to go into detail on this question without handing you a form to read, but sometimes this information is going to be on an intake form that you sign to indicate you know what you are getting into. They should be able to explain it clearly, and you can ask about anything you are not familiar with, maybe ask them about a few situations you can think of beforehand.
They should be able to give you a few ideas, and asking questions about reporting to law enforcement should help you understand how they view mandatory reporting.
This is a US-specific organization that educates, certifies, and trains therapists and others in topics related to sexuality. They have a tool to locate sexuality professionals in your area, provided you live in the US.
This is a referral tool that you can use. It is a confidential form where people can get help with a variety of issues. Do not let the name of the organization fool you: They are mental health professionals who only want to help, and they will not assume you have or will molest a child because you have a sexual attraction to children. Under “referral type”, select “community outpatient”, and under “notes”, indicate that you are looking for a therapist who can treat minor attraction.
Help Wanted is a project of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, aimed specifically at adolescent and young adult minor attracted people. It takes the form of a static course that young minor attracted people can learn from.
This is a UK-based organization aimed at helping prevent sexual offenses before they happen. They have professional resources available specific to the UK.
Safer Living Foundation is a Nottingham, UK-based charity that works primarily with people who have sexually offended and people who feel they are at-risk to do so.
This is a 12-step program designed for those with sexual addiction or dependency issues. They have meetings in the US, Canada, and a variety of other countries. They also have electronic meetings if your country is not represented, and they have a handy tool at the top to find out if their program is right for you. Similar programs are Sexaholics Anonymous and Sexual Compulsives Anonymous.
Virtuous Pedophiles operates as a forum for adults, and their public splash page has a great deal of facts, information, media, and resources available for anyone wishing to know more about minor attracted people. Their forum is not a fit for every person and may be offensive to some.
Association for Sexual Abuse Prevention (ASAP International)
This site is a great place to start for anyone with a sexual attraction to children, and has links to some of the other organizations mentioned in this section. Their master list of providers can be found here. This organization was started by a minor attracted person.
This organization has a lot of academic information, as well as general information about minor attraction. They have a forum for adults, as well as a referral service where they will help you find a competent therapist familiar with minor attraction.
This site has affiliates that treat forensic (criminal) and non-forensic populations for sexual issues. They may be a useful tool in finding more about therapy, answering questions, and finding a qualified therapist.
The Global Prevention Project
The Global Prevention Project serves as a professional solution to many different internal and external sexual issues, including sexual attraction to children. They are global, and know of resources in many countries.
Safer Lives is a UK-based project led by a three-person team, and provide support for people who have harmed or are under police investigation.
This site has information available in English, German, Finnish, Spanish, and Russian about minor attraction and how it differs from child sexual abuse. There are some support resources available.
Stop It Now! operates a helpline available in the United States, and they can direct you to resources in those areas as well as serving as someone to talk to. Most contact is anonymous unless you choose to share identifying information.
Note: This is not the same organization as Stop It Now! UK & Ireland, which has been criticized for their approach to fantasy.
This organization is one of many focused on sexual health, and they have a tool that can show affiliate therapists on a map. This can be a useful start for finding therapy, though doing a simple Google search with “sexual health therapists in [location]” may be easier.