Beyond Fear and Mistrust:
Toward Open Communication between Mental Health Professionals and Minor-Attracted People

March 20, 2008, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Westminster, MD

The goals of this first workshop organized by B4U-ACT were:

  • To define the communication problem that exists between mental health professionals and minor-attracted people in society

  • To promote understanding of the harmful consequences of this problem, and the benefits of eliminating the barriers to communication

  • To develop mutual empathy among mental health professionals and minor-attracted people

  • To help mental health professionals see minor-attracted people as diverse in their characteristics and behaviors

  • To form a working group that would develop and carry out plans to promote communication between the two groups over a period of time, and on a larger scale.

A total of 19 participants attended, including four minor-attracted people. Psychodrama was used to explore the thoughts and feelings that might be experienced by a mental health professional and a minor-attracted person when they meet for the first time, and when they meet in a therapeutic context. Participants discussed issues regarding finding a safe and supportive environment, disclosure of sexual feelings, ethical therapeutic responses, and mandatory reporting laws. The discussion brought out preconceptions, fears, and other factors that may act as barriers to communication and to effective therapy.

The workshop also included presentations refuting popular myths about attraction to minors and demonstrating the harshly negative messages and abusive treatment directed toward minor-attracted young people, along with these young people’s reactions to severe stigma. Another presentation described what was missing from these messages, including stories of minor-attracted people who contribute to their communities, and opportunities for minor-attracted people to participate in the development of policies, laws, and programs that affect them.

The workshop concluded with an opportunity to brainstorm ideas for future work. A listserv was started for continued discussion, and additional mental health professionals and minor-attracted people were invited to join.

Throughout the day, there was respectful communication between mental health professionals and minor-attracted people, and some new friendships and partnerships were forged. The organizers hope that minor-attracted people and mental health professionals will work together to find ways to fight false stereotypes, to help others see minor-attracted people as contributors to society rather than as potential offenders who need to be controlled, and to make accurate information and compassionate services available for minor-attracted people who need help in finding hope and fulfillment in their lives.