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Perspective ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00763

Web-based Health Services in Forensic Psychiatry: A Review of the Use of the Internet in the Treatment of Child Sexual Abusers and Child Sexual Exploitation Material Offenders

  • 1University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany
  • 2Asklepios Fachklinikum Göttingen, Germany

In recent years, web-based health services for a variety of mental disorders have been developed and evaluated. Evidence suggests that guided internet-based therapy can be as effective as conventional face-to-face therapy. In forensic psychiatric practice, few web-based treatments have been implemented up to now. However, to our knowledge, there do not yet exist guided internet-based treatments for child sexual abusers and child sexual exploitation material offenders. This review aims at examining under what conditions patients are most likely to benefit from internet-based treatments. In addition, some computer-based health services in forensic psychiatry will be summarized and their potentials and weaknesses will be discussed. Subsequently, the review focuses on the implications for the development of online treatments for child sexual abusers as well as on a variety of ethical and legal issues that practitioners may encounter during the development, evaluation and delivery of online health services. The review will conclude with proposed quality standards for the development and implementation of web-based interventions for child sexual abusers and child sexual exploitation material offenders. By virtue of the low number of psychotherapists offering therapy to this clientele as well as individual barriers to seeking treatment, the development of mental eHealth services in this sector could close an important healthcare gap. By increasing the density of supply, more child sexual abusers and child sexual exploitation material offenders would have the chance to engage in treatment and, ultimately, more incidents of sexual assault against minors could be prevented.

Keywords: Internet-based intervention, child sexual abuse, Forensic Psychiatry, Child pornography, sex offender, Pedophilia, web-based treatment, Online therapy

Received: 12 Oct 2018; Accepted: 20 Dec 2018.

Edited by:

Katarina Howner, Karolinska Institute (KI), Sweden

Reviewed by:

Bernhard Bogerts, Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg, Germany
Pekka Santtila, New York University Shanghai, China  

Copyright: © 2018 Wild, Fromberger, Jordan, Müller and Müller. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Jürgen L. Müller, University Medical Center Göttingen, Göttingen, 37075, Lower Saxony, Germany, ju.mueller@asklepios.com