North Texas Daily

New UNT professor focuses on abuse research and rehabilitation

New UNT professor focuses on abuse research and rehabilitation

January 27
15:18 2016

Samantha Sullivan | Staff Writer

@SamElizabethan

A prison or halfway house in an inner-city neighborhood in Dallas isn’t where one would expect to find a highly-educated, professionally-trained and small-framed woman on her own. It’s the last place most want to be. Some even avoid walking or living on the same streets as the buildings.

This is a place where ex-criminals with chronic mental health disorders and substance abuse issues begin the reintegration process back into society. It’s also where you can find UNT’s assistant professor and counselor, Dr. Angie Wilson.

Wilson and her research committee are the brokers between offenders who have been completely rejected by society following their crimes and those who desire to learn more about the psyche of sex offenders.

There are many challenges to sex offender research. It is done mostly in prisons, jails or halfway homes, which can take years to obtain access to. Wilson said community-based research is also difficult, as most offenders aren’t excited about sharing their stories.

Counseling professor Angie Wilson focuses on sex offender treatment and rehabilitation in her research. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

Counseling professor Angie Wilson focuses on sex offender treatment and rehabilitation in her research. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

But Wilson said that doesn’t mean they should remain invisible.

“Sexual offenders are a part of our society, and they will continue to be a part of our society,” Wilson said. “Many people would like to send them away never to be seen or heard of again, but that’s unrealistic and irrational.”

Dr. Wilson became an assistant professor at UNT’s College of Education in August 2015. She was appointed chair of the sex offender treatment and rehabilitation committee by the president of the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors. Her role is to help educate counselors and those in training about working with sexual offenders.

The committee includes Dr. Enobong Inyang, assistant professor of counseling and psychology at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Paul Carrola, assistant professor of educational psychology and special services at UT-El Paso.

This year, Dr. Wilson, along with her colleagues at IAAOC, are researching ways to bridge the gap between offenders and society and tackle the general lack of interest to work with a shunned part of the public.

“She is leading an initiative to incorporate increased research efforts on sex offender treatment and correctional counseling through her work in IAAOC,” Carrola said. “This research area is significantly lacking in the counseling profession, yet it is very relevant for mental health practitioners who work in this area.”

The committee’s latest project is titled “Best Practices: Working with Incarcerated Male Sexual Offenders.” It will educate counselors on the latest and best practices for working with sexual offenders. Once it is completed, the research will be submitted for publication in an academic journal based on the committee’s own clinical experiences and empirical research.

“As a clinician who provided services to sex offenders in preparation for re-entry into society after a period of incarceration, I was curious to understand from their release sex offenders’ perspectives, what their experiences were, particularly given the ominous stigma of ‘sex offender’ with all the related barriers,” Inyang said.

Despite the sensitive subject matter, IAAOC’s goal is to arm people with knowledge. If they can help one offender feel empathy and prevent them from committing another offense, Wilson said, then their work has paid off.

“The average person should know that sexual offenses have happened for a very long time, and the Internet has a lot to do with it,” Wilson said. “Over the last two years there has been an increase in sexual offenses, and it’s happening a lot on social media now.”

Wilson encourages students interested in working with sex offenders to join the offender counseling research team and sex offender treatment and rehabilitation committee.

For more information, visit IAAOC.org.

Featured Image: Counseling professor Angie Wilson focuses on sex offender treatment and rehabilitation in her research. Erica Wieting | Features Editor

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