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Developing Protective Factors Responsive to Criminogenic Needs

David Thornton


Recent developments in clinical practice in sex offense specific treatment emphasize engagement and responsivity, along with building strengths and developing protective factors.  At the same time research has continued to emphasize the connection between criminogenic needs and sexual recidivism There is a danger that a gulf will develop between these two bodies of work with treatment practices developing that engage and build strengths but fail to address criminogenic needs. What is needed is a way of building strengths that is responsive criminogenic needs. This symposium is a progress report on work designed to build such a bridge. 


David Thornton is a forensic psychologist in private practice based in the state of Wisconsin in the USA. In this capacity, he also works regularly in Minnesota and Iowa. Between 2001 and 2013 he worked as treatment director for a program providing clinical services for men assessed as presenting a high risk for sexual recidivism consequent on mental disorders. Between 2013 and 2016 he built up a research unit for this program before moving into private practice in 2016.  As a practitioner, he specializes in the assessment and treatment of men who present a risk for sexual and violent recidivism. As a researcher he has been involved in the development of statistical and psychological frameworks for assessing factors that contribute to different kinds of recidivism. This has led to the creation of statistical instruments like Static-99 and Risk Matrix 2000 as well as psychological models of risk like the SRA framework and the Theory of Dynamic Risk. He is currently involved in a project that seeks to improve measurement of protective factors and to develop better ways of incorporating a protective factor approach into treatment.