Start ] Up ]

Parts from: Preventing Sexual Abuse:

Perspectives of Minor- Attracted Persons About Seeking Help  

Levenson, Jill S., & Grady Melissa D. - 2018


The primary aim of this exploratory research was to gain information from minor-attracted persons (MAPs) about their

  • (a) formal and informal experiences with help-seeking for minor attraction,
  • (b) perceived barriers to seeking help for concerns about minor attraction, and
  • (c) treatment priorities as identified by consumers of these services.

A non-random, purposive sample of MAPs (n = 293, 154 completed all questions) was recruited via an online survey.

Results show that 75% of participants did seek formal help from a professional; however, just less than half of them found the experience to be helpful.

Characteristics of helpful therapeutic encounters included

  • nonjudgmental attitudes,
  • knowledge about minor attraction, and
  • viewing clients in a person-centered and holistic way.

Barriers to help seeking included

  • uncertainty about confidentiality,
  • fear of negative reaction or judgment,
  • difficulties finding a therapist knowledgeable about MAPs, and
  • financial constraints.

Understanding or reducing attraction to minors were common treatment goals, but participants also prioritized addressing general mental health and well-being related to

  • depression,
  • anxiety,
  • loneliness, and
  • low self-esteem.

Implications for effective and ethical counseling and preventive interventions for MAPs are discussed.


Ultimately, it is hoped that this project will contribute to prevention of child sexual abuse by promoting compassionate, relevant, and effective psychotherapy services that are accessible and available for those wishing to maintain an emotionally healthy and nonvictimizing lifestyle. The knowledge gained from the survey and narrative responses can help improve engagement in counseling, clarify treatment needs, and deliver appropriate clinical services for people with minor attraction.

In this way, MAPs can receive supportive services that address their mental health and psychosocial needs, reinforce their sense of self-efficacy and motivation to not abuse children, and encourage willingness to seek help if they believe themselves to be at risk for sexual contact with minors.

Importantly, many respondents indicated that concerns about the limits of confidentiality in a therapeutic setting were primary barriers to help seeking. This is probably most true in the United States. Mandatory reporting laws make it extremely difficult to envision a preventive program in the United States without a change in policy to allow for confidential help seeking. Some states now require a mental health professional to report viewing of child pornography, even without a contact victim. Therapists lobbied against such a requirement, citing concerns that MAPs would be discouraged from seeking preventive services, and that counselors would be placed in a position of breaching their ethical commitments [...]

Although mandatory reporting laws are designed to protect children, they may paradoxically increase risk when individuals avoid seeking help due to stigma and fear of consequences [...]

Also, they may deprive individuals of mental health enhancement and relief from the distress caused by their minor attraction (Beier, 2016). We encourage continued advocacy for access to mental health treatment for those who wish to improve their well-being or prevent themselves from harming children.

Finally, we hope to emphasize that clinical services for MAPs are valuable not only as a means to prevent child abuse but also to further the quest of helping professionals to provide client-centered and nonjudgmental care to all who seek it.

By emphasizing MAP well-being and highlighting their own perceptions of treatment priorities, we do not intend to minimize the importance of prevention, to ignore risk, to suggest evasion of mandatory reporting laws, or to excuse child sexual abuse.

We believe that research can shed light on the inner experience of MAPs, and that this understanding can inform the development of competent, ethical, compassionate services. People do not choose their attractions, though they can choose whether to act on them. We hope that by engaging in this conversation, we can contribute to effective counseling that is grounded in science for individuals with minor attraction.

Start ] Up ]