The conference is vitally important on a number of levels, as it reminds that our field is a truly international one in which the main policy, practice and research issues, as well as our successes and challenges are transferable to other locations. The conference explored the issue of responsivity in the field of sexual abuse deeply. It discussed the role of responsivity in treatment outcome, in the client/practitioner relationship and in how we reintegrate the offender back into the community. The issues raised could have been applied to any sex offender conference, particularly, any ATSA related conference international, including how we get clients to engage, practitioners to be responsivity, policy makers to be realistic and society to support us in our work.
Perhaps most importantly, the professionals of Belgium and the Netherlands demonstrate true grit in making high-quality assessment and treatment happen. Outside the region, these countries have an excellent reputation in research and practice. Once there, we quickly realized how much hard work goes into making excellent services happen.
The conference was held at the Van der Hoeven Kliniek in Utrecht. Many world-famous practitioners have worked there, from ATSA’s own Wineke Smid to Corrine de Ruiter, Vivienne de Vogel, and others too numerous to mention. One of the highlights of the day was having a tour of the facility, meeting the staff, the patients and seeing the work that they do there. To this end, we have to acknowledge the psychiatrist, Jelle Toelstra, who described the incredibly hard work, over many years, that it takes to build a world-class facility and let us interview a number of patients without limitation. The Netherlands and Belgium may have an excellent reputation in our field, but they came by it honestly and in an environment where things can always change.
The Van der Hoeven Kliniek is a therapeutic community and seeing some of the approaches that they use [especially “rock and water”, which we will have an upcoming blog about], the facilities that they have, the training/work based practice that they can offer and the way that they engage with the families of their patients are an important model to follow. The approaches they use, the latitude that they have in their therapy and the trust that is placed in them by the state is impressive. They are an example of good practice that needs to be recognised and shared.
The ATSA-NL conference reinforced the importance of sharing good practice, international collaboration and recognising that sexual harm is a global problem that has local, national and international responses. ATSA-NL grew out of earlier conference/organization work and are bringing practitioners together in a time when budgets are tight and time away from the office is more difficult than ever. The real question is what we (who live elsewhere) need to do to live up to their example.
Kieran McCartan, Ph.D., & David Prescott, LICSW