Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Thesis (UNI Access Only)


Sex offenders--Psychology; Help-seeking behavior; Psychotherapy; Stigma (Social psychology);


The United States federal government has passed several federal acts to increase community awareness of sex offenders in an attempt to reduce recidivism. Due to these acts, registered sex offenders (RSO) are subject to increased stigma, and as a result of the stigma, hardships including difficulty finding employment and social isolation which can lead to depression and other negative outcomes (Evans & Cubellis, 2015; Jeglic, Mercado, & Levenson, 2012; Levenson, D’Amora, & Hern, 2007). Psychotherapy provides a support system and treats depression in addition to reducing recidivism rates among RSOs (Brooks-Gordon & Bilby, 2006; Nagayama Hall, 1995; McGrath, Hoke, & Vojtisek, 1998). Psychotherapy is implemented with RSOs in Iowa’s corrections and parole systems. However, mandated treatment typically ends after a few years, recidivism rates begin to increase after ceasing treatment (Maletzky & Steinhauser, 2002), and not every RSO is mandated to treatment. This indicates that RSOs must seek psychotherapy on their own to manage recidivism risk. Common barriers to seeking psychological help have been identified, such as mistrust of healthcare professionals, stigma, and lack of resources (Gulliver, Griffiths, & Christensen, 2010). This study focused on whether or not RSOs seek psychological help on their own, and what barriers prevent Iowan RSOs from seeking help. To do this, information on RSOs in four Iowa counties was taken from the online Sex Offender Registry, and those RSOs were invited to participate via mail survey. Eighty-nine RSOs completed and returned the questionnaires, which assessed help-seeking behavior, services received, and common barriers to help-seeking. Approximately three-fourths of RSOs reported receiving psychological help and slightly over half reported seeking psychological help on their own, which is elevated compared to the general population. However, some barriers to treatment were still reported. Most commonly cited were preference for privacy and being embarrassed about discussing the problem. The second most commonly cited barriers to treatment were primarily concrete barriers, such as cost, lack of insurance, and transportation. Some facilitators to help-seeking were identified as well. Value in psychological help and increased perception of stigma in regards to their RSO status were related to help-seeking behavior. There are several treatment and policy implications for these findings. How these findings can inform treatment and policy will be discussed.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Kimberly MacLin, Chair, Thesis Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (v, 65 pages)



File Format


Off-Campus Download