Secret-keeping in therapy by clients who are sexually attracted to children

Secret-keeping in therapy among clients sexually attracted to children

Secret-keeping in therapy by clients who are sexually attracted to children


An international research team including the two 2PS work package leaders Sara Jahnke (University of Bergen) and Nicholas Blagden (University of Derby) have recently published an article on secret-keeping among clients sexually attracted to children in the journal Psychotherapy Research.


The research involving clients sexually attracted to children

The researchers have surveyed 136 people online sexually attracted to children and had prior treatment experiences. Among these, 96 had told their therapist about their attraction to children, while 40 had not.

Disclosing a sexual attraction to their therapist was linked to a better alliance with the therapist, but not to client improvement. In other words, participants who had disclosed their sexual attraction to their therapist did not perceive more (or less) improvement of their well-being or relationships throughout treatment compared to participants who kept their attraction to themselves.

However, those clients who felt that their therapist has reacted supportively reported more improvement in treatment than those who described their therapists’ reaction as unsupportive.

The research also revealed insights into why participants decided to disclose (or not disclose) their sexual attraction to children in treatment. Many described disclosure as a process of desperation and emotional turmoil.


“My emotions erupted like a volcano…I repressed my sexual orientation for too many years. So suddenly it all came out.”


The majority of participants reported reluctance to disclose to a therapist. Many were expressing fears that disclosure will lead to negative outcomes or that “the overall level of risk outweighed any potential benefit of disclosing.” Some reported that this reluctance was borne out of actual negative experiences with therapists in the past.

Finding a therapist with experience and knowledge with regards to sexual attraction to children encouraged participants to speak about their sexuality. They described the open and supportive dialogue that would then ensue as freeing and transformative.

Participants reported various experiences with regards to the impact of disclosure. About a quarter of those who disclosed described its impact as highly positive, while another quarter described negative experiences. The quotes below reflect these experiences.


“They reacted well with me. Cheered me up. Said I shouldn’t have to worry and beat myself up so much just for having these thoughts and sexual attractions in my head said I’m not a ticking time bomb.”

“Therapist became suddenly cold and abrasive. Gave me a lecture on how she disapproved of any form of adult child sexual contact. Told me she could do nothing more for me than suggest I attend Parents Anonymous session. End of therapy.”



Jahnke, S., Blagden, N., Mcphail, I. V., & Antfolk, J. (2023). Secret-keeping in therapy by clients who are sexually attracted to children. Psychotherapy Research, 1-16.

Visit the resource section to download the full article.