Clinical Polygraph Examination - Building a Foundation of Trust

All students who attend Oxbow Academy take part in a 90-Day Sexual Risk Assessment. Clinical polygraph testing is a vital part of that evaluation process.

When young men come to Oxbow Academy, many of their families have lost confidence in one another. There is no basis for trust.

Unless families have trust, they cannot heal. One of the most valuable aspects of the clinical polygraph examination is that it is a way to begin to rebuild trust.

The use of polygraph testing as part of a treatment program provides families with a level of certainty about the need for treatment that they could not get any other way.

Polygraphy gives scientific validity to the need for a sex-specific treatment program. When families receive the polygraph results, they have the best possible understanding of the kind of support that their sons need.


Misconceptions About Clinical Polygraph Testing

Most people think of polygraph testing as lie detector tests. They imagine police officers give these tests in dimly lit rooms as part of a criminal investigation.

These images are understandably off-putting. No parent wants their son treated like a sex offender or criminal. But the reality of a clinical polygraph examination could not be further from those unsettling images.

The use of polygraph testing during a treatment program ensures each student receives the best treatment possible. Examinees are treated with compassion and respect throughout the treatment process.

Moreover, polygraph examiners have nothing to do with law enforcement. These third-party polygraph examiners are all clinical professionals who have experience in working with youth.

Modern polygraph techniques are not a matter of lie detection. Instead, the polygraph instrument monitors physiological responses like blood pressure and heart rate. These physiological responses help in the detection of deception.

Careful monitoring examinations are used to prevent a false positive or any other incorrect test results.
The use of the polygraph examination is for treatment, not punishment. Each person who takes part in the examination process is treated as an innocent person.

Neither the polygraph examiners nor the Oxbow Academy treatment professionals ever lose sight of the fact that the examinees are vulnerable, still-developing teen boys.

More accurate information about polygraph testing is available through the American Polygraph Association

The Reality of Polygraph Examinations

Clinical polygraph procedures encourage truth-telling by design. The type of examination Oxbow Academy uses during the evaluation process is a specific issue examination.

The polygraph examiners provide the examinees with the best support possible to enable the examinees to pass the polygraph test. The purpose of the polygraph test is not the conviction of a sex offender. The purpose of the procedure is to help a vulnerable teenage boy find the best treatment possible. The polygraph also helps to re-establish a relationship with the truth, and rebuild trust with his parents.

Before students ever enter the polygraph testing office, they begin to build a relationship with their Oxbow Academy therapist. They are also told they will be taking a clinical polygraph from the beginning. This awareness helps to build trust in the treatment process and makes taking the polygraph a more relaxed situation. For both the student and the therapist, building rapport is essential.

Therapists ask students difficult questions. Therapists ask students about their past sexual behaviors and fantasies, and their past experience with sexual abuse.

For most students, the disclosure process is similar to the story of Hansel and Gretel. A student will drop one piece of information. The student will see how his therapist and family react. Then the student gradually reveals more information as they feel safe doing so.

Little by little, these disclosures become like a trail of breadcrumbs that leads to the truth.

The disclosure process cannot be rushed. Typically, the process will take at least one or two months.
The information helps to detect high-risk behaviors that suggest students may need specialized, sex-specific in-patient treatment. Therapists use the information they gather to create a sexual history disclosure.

The polygraph examiners receive the sexual history disclosure and other information gathered by the therapists, teachers, and staff members before the polygraph test. The examiners use the information to help draft relevant questions.

Before the test even begins, students take part in a pre-test interview. This interview helps to further refine relevant questions and helps the examiner to create control questions.

The pre-test interview is also used to help build rapport between the examiner and examinee to encourage non-deceptive behavior.

The question technique that examiners use is age-appropriate, respectful, and compassionate.
Everything possible is done to help students pass the polygraph examination. However, sometimes students must take the polygraph test more than once before they pass.

After students pass the polygraph examination, then the student, their family, and the treatment team can begin an honest discussion about the future. Their plans will be based on scientific evidence provided by the disclosure test results.

After Receiving the Polygraph Test Results

The polygraph examination is one of the most valuable steps in the 90-day evaluation process. Third-party psychiatric professionals receive the passed polygraph results, information on how the student has progressed at Oxbow Academy, and a sexual disclosure. Then, these professionals use this information to complete a psychosexual evaluation.

Families receive the full psychosexual evaluation and recommendations from third-party psychologists of their choice. Therefore, families know to the highest degree of certainty if their sons require sex-specific treatment. This information empowers families to find the best treatment program for their son—whether or not that treatment program is Oxbow Academy.

Families will have a clear understanding of their son's past sexual behaviors. If information comes to light that is relevant to potential sex offenses, then their son's involvement in a sex-specific treatment program typically helps to the possibility of reoffending and mitigate the outcome of any criminal investigation.

Involvement in an appropriate treatment program, such as Oxbow Academy, is sufficient to prevent some students from becoming a part of the criminal justice system.

Most importantly, not only can families plan the best course of treatment for their sons, but they can also begin to rebuild trust.

The Importance of the Polygraph Examination

Due to the high quality of professional treatment available at Oxbow Academy, teen boys come to the Utah-based treatment program from across the United States, and across the world.

From the time young men arrive at Oxbow Academy to the time of their discharge, they are treated with compassion and respect.

The clinical polygraph exam is a valuable step in the 90-Day Sexual Risk Assessment. It is part of the 90-day sexual risk assessment offered at Oxbow Academy. It allows the third-party psychologist to have the most accurate information about your son, and be able to provide a comprehensive evaluation and recommendations for your son.

Without the polygraph, the psychosexual evaluation may not be fully accurate because the psychologist may not have all of the appropriate information to fully evaluate your son. Once your son successfully passes a polygraph, then they can complete a full psychosexual evaluation. Until the psychosexual evaluation is completed, it is not possible to know what kind of treatment is best for your son.

Moreover, during their time at Oxbow Academy, students learn about consent and healthy sexual behaviors, which is valuable whether they are found to require sex-specific treatment or not. As a parent, once your son passes a polygraph, you can have a better understanding of what is really going on with your son and know that you have taken appropriate preventative measures to help them whether they need sex-specific treatment or not.

It was a chance for me to become open… to start that foundation of trust again, and break down the walls that were already there.
It made me realize for the first time that I really did need help and that I did have a problem.
It’s often because they do like us that they lie to us, they don’t want to hurt us! - Dr. Marina Money
In the programs that include a polygraph exam as part of their treatment program, the kids seem to spend a lot less time in therapy than they do with the kids that take polygraph exams not at all or rarely.