'It's Intense, to an Extent': A Qualitative Study of the Emotional Challenges Faced by Staff Working on a Treatment Programme for Intellectually Disabled Sex Offenders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Daljit K. Sandhu
  • John Rose
  • Helen J. Rostill-Brookes
  • Su Thrift

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • North Warwickshire Primary Care Trust


Background This study explores the emotional challenges faced by staff working on a sex offender treatment programme for people with an intellectual disability. Methods Semi-structured interviews were carried out with eight participants working on a treatment programme for sex offenders with an intellectual disability. Interviews were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results Staff experienced a range of negative emotions that they dealt with in a variety of ways including through the use of humour and various emotional defences. Empathy was a challenging and complex issue with individuals taking a variety of positions. Conclusion Staff awareness and understanding of the role of emotions in relation to their own well-being and in relation to therapeutic processes varied. Emotional intelligence was associated with greater therapeutic understanding. Recommendations are made in relation to personal and professional characteristics and need for clinical supervision to support staff well-being and the development of therapeutic competence and effectiveness.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-318
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012


  • Empathy, Intellectual disability, Sex offender treatment, Staff well-being, Therapeutic processes, Therapist characteristics