Since 2004, Juliet Grayson has run personal development groups across the UK, using the Pesso Boyden System of Psychotherapy. Whilst most of these are open to the general public, one of these is for a very specific client group, namely people who are struggling with sexually inappropriate behaviour of all sorts, including people who have been arrested and convicted for sexual offences. Juliet calls it the ‘Slippery Slope Group’. A new participant recently offered to write his experience of this up anonymously. Juliet is publishing his words here. He provides a rare insight into the perspective of someone who has committed, and been arrested for, a sexual offence.
SLIPPERY SLOPE COURSE – A NEW PARTICIPANT’S STORY
I really did not know what to expect as I pulled into the car park outside the hall for my first ‘Slippery Slope’ therapeutic group session with Juliet Grayson, Chair of STOPSO (Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending). How many people would be in the group? Why were they there? What would the ‘structure’ (what they call a client session) be like and how would I cope? Would I be accepted or rejected by my fellow group members? Since the police had called on me a few weeks before I had been on a rollercoaster, learning the true meaning of the terms ‘acceptance’ and ‘rejection’ – and how painful the latter can be. So many questions and I was admittedly more scared than curious. But I took a deep breath and walked in.
The form of therapy used, the Pesso Boyden method, is based on the fact that our attitudes to sex and relationships, our ‘markers’, are laid down in childhood, around the ages of 6 to 8. Any traumas at that time can disrupt normal development in this area and become serious issues in later life. During the therapy a client undergoes a ‘structure’ in which he or she is encouraged to open up to the group about such issues. Trauma can never be removed, but the client can choose group members to act as ‘ideal’ substitutes for those who had allowed the trauma to occur, or been complicit. This ‘alternative history’ can provide a normal basis for development – something we can hold onto as we face life’s real challenges.
In my case I had been visited by the police who alleged that illegal pornography had been traced to my computer. All my computer equipment had been taken for forensic examination and the immediate consequences were devastating.
I’d decided to seek professional assistance and made contact with StopSO with a view to getting help. They put me in touch with Juliet, and her group, and a few weeks later I walked into the hall with some trepidation. The first thing that struck me was that there were more women than men, something of a surprise, but it became clear that some were there to use the session to help with past traumas and not necessarily to prevent sexual offending. Offending was not explicitly mentioned and when it was it was in an informal and matter-of-fact way.
The group started with one of the women having a structure which focussed on her childhood problems with a domineering father. Another revealed issues with her partner. In both cases the depth of feeling was immense and palpable, and in one I was asked to act as an ‘ideal parent’ – a moving experience and, I felt, a privilege.
Then it was my turn to have a ‘structure’. I decided to reveal to the group my childhood separation from my father, my abusive step-father, and the changes in family dynamics as I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. I thought it would be easy and initially I felt strong, but emotions overcame me and I was soon dependent on my ‘ideal parents’ for love and support. Those strong feelings have stayed with me ever since. And I have something to hold onto when I think back to that difficult time in my childhood.
I’m not yet sure how exactly the catharsis experienced in my first structure links my childhood traumas to my present-day offending, but I think the second group session shed a lot of light on things.
Just over two months later I found myself approaching the same hall, perhaps a little less apprehensive, partly because this was my second time, but mainly because I was joining the group as merely a supporter this time. No structure. No focus on me. Merely a supporter.
The group included several members who had attended before plus a couple of newcomers. Two people who had undergone a structure the previous time had elected to have structures again; they were joined by another ‘regular’. The three structures followed very different paths, but what struck me was that all three people had suffered from three of the classic forms of abuse: physical violence, sexual abuse including a rape, and neglect at a very young age. We helped each work through their past experiences and acted as ‘ideal’ parents, carers and protectors. If I initially thought that I was ‘merely a supporter’ I could not have been more wrong. Hearing these people’s traumas, helping them as they relived them brought several things home to me. Here were real victims, still suffering after many years and the effect on me was powerful. The connection between these victims and mine was placed into stark relief and I realised how inadequate the term ‘merely a supporter’ was. This group session was perhaps even more useful than the last, but in a very different way.
In conversation with Juliet I learned that one of the further tenets of the course is that people accept others who have committed such antisocial crimes, that they can be rehabilitated and prevented from going further down the ‘slippery slope’. Help for other addictions and behaviours is widespread, but ours is very poorly supported – very few charities exist to assist sexual offenders and those that do struggle for funding.
On my next session, I plan to have my second structure. It is time to disclose my recent past to the group and test the acceptance, or otherwise, of the group. I have no idea how it will go and, to be honest, the thought terrifies me. I will explain that my wife did not support me and how isolating that has been, how I have fought for my self-esteem, to find friends and what my transgressions have cost me.
In my general one-to-one counselling it has been made clear to me that building my self-worth and confidence plays a huge part in my rehabilitation and moving away from addiction. I have found this to be sound advice and the Slippery Slope group is forming a very important part in this.
My hopes for the future include acceptance of me a person, help ensuring that I never backtrack and putting positive scenarios in place. It has been a positive start to climbing back up that awful slope – hard work but with a worthwhile goal in sight.
11th August 2017
To read more about Juliet’s use of Pesso Boyden System of Psychotherapy with sex offenders click here
To find out about StopSO: The Specialist Treatment Organisation for the Prevention of Sexual Offending click here
To buy Landscapes of the Heart: The working world of a sex and relationship therapist click here (over half the book describes PBSP client sessions. NB These are sessions with the general public, and not specifically with this client group.)
To find out about training as a Pesso Boyden Therapist click here
To find out about the Slippery Slope group click here
To find out dates for Juliet Grayson’s personal development workshops for the general public, including Pesso Boyden Personal Development Groups click here