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Juvenile sex offenders can be changed, counselor contends

William Seabloom claims he achieves 100% success in treating offenders

While society currently is obsessed with long-term commitment for sex offenders, a Lutheran psychotherapist, Dr. William Seabloom, says statistical data shows that treatment is more effective than confinement for adolescent offenders. And, it comes at a small fraction of the cost of confinement.
A lifelong member of Incarnation Lutheran Church in North Oaks and predecessor congregations, Seabloom holds a master of divinity degree from the former Northwestern Lutheran Seminary, but was never ordained into the parish ministry. He worked for nearly a quarter century with Lutheran Social Service and its predecessor, Luther-an Welfare. He currently works as a certified sex therapist and as a licensed independent clinical social worker from an office in the Midway area of St. Paul.
Seabloom told of a study he and his colleagues had undertaken on sex offenders who underwent treatment through the Lutheran Social Service Personal / Social Awareness (P/SA) program during the 1970s and 1980s.
That study tracked 122 adolescent sex offenders (ages 12-18) and over 400 family members between ages 14-24 after they participated in an intensive outpatient treatment program. The results showed no arrests or convictions for sex-related crimes among the participants who successfully completed the P/SA program. The average time spent in the program was 15 months.
Seabloom said in a recent publication, “With all of this research available, one might ask why there has been no apparent change in the general public and governmental position that sex offenders are untreatable. When I asked a wise and perceptive friend and colleague this question, his response was ‘Bill, you have the right answer. But, unfortunately it’s the wrong answer.’ It isn’t the answer people want to hear.
“But, one might also ask, if the state chooses to ignore the facts, to abandon proven treatment methods, and to ignore the evidence, based on solid data available for years, that sex offenders are treatable, isn’t the state then choosing to be complicit in criminal sexual behavior?”
Seabloom contends the church has also been complicit in this, even though sex offenders are the most treatable of all offenders. He also contends that some workers are terrified about working with young sex offenders.
In the P/SA program each youth was to learn about his sexuality. They learned to speak for themselves and the staff learned to listen to them. When the staff did so, they learned that the young people had important lessons for the professionals, even if some of the youth had been identified with negative labels, said Seabloom’s report.
The adolescents participated in weekly group and individual psychotherapy sessions and biweekly family therapy. They were also required to participate in bimonthly 27-hour group therapy marathons at a retreat center, and twice-a-year, two-day family educational/sexual awareness seminars called the “Family Journey.”
The language of the program was positive, clearly descriptive and nonjudgmental, and the boys, the families and the staff were taught to speak in these terms. What was truly significant was that this group of boys could come to share extremely intimate details of their life conditions, feelings and experiences with each other and with the staff, according to the report.
The program underwent a two-year review to determine if it was in compliance with the theology of the Lutheran Church, and it passed. It was also selected as one of the nine top adolescent sex offender treatment programs in the nation.
From an economic standpoint, the program in 1984 cost $5,064 per youth for services to them and their families — equivalent to $9,165 in 2005 dollars. That compares with $113,150 per year per prisoner at the Minnesota Department of Corrections Moose Lake treatment program or $80,333 per year at the state training school in Red Wing.
The P/SA program continues today with some modification and no longer includes the “Family Jour-ney” component.
One of the youths served by the program had this to say about it: “The P/SA program at LSS is one of the most loving families I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. I use the term ‘family,’ because I have gained love, respect and the right to share my feelings, not only with my natural family, but also with family I never knew existed … The P/SA program was a very loving experience for me and I think everyone should have the chance to experience its knowledge of sexuality and its gift of loving yourself and others without hurting yourself or others.”
For Seabloom, it’s a frustration to see the obvious successes and cost-effectiveness of the P/SA program and yet see current favor within government and society for locking up sex offenders. He continues to make presentations on the P/SA program and to seek out people willing to listen to how this program dealt successfully and humanely with a human condition.
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To reach Seabloom, call 651-415-0570 or send an E-mail to: seab1003@tc.umn. edu.