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Therapy for minor-attracted people

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Therapy can be an incredibly effective (albeit risky) treatment option for minor-attracted people (MAPs), who often face increased isolation and an elevated risk of mental health issues due to the stigma surrounding their attractions. However, because of that stigma, many people hold inaccurate assumptions about this form of treatment. Providing MAPs with reliable information is essential to helping them make informed decisions about their health.

Why might MAPs seek therapy?

Minor-attracted people are individuals who experience one or more of the four minor attractions: nepiophilia (attraction to infants), pedophilia (attraction to prepubescent children), hebephilia (attraction to pubescent teens), and ephebophilia (attraction to post-pubescent minors and young adults). Like other attractions, minor attractions are typically not correlated with major demographic factors. As a result, MAPs are incredibly diverse, save for a few underlying trends.

Unsurprisingly, the reasons MAPs seek therapy are equally varied. Many MAPs seek professional support due to internalized stigma caused by being constantly bombarded with the message that they are "monsters" or a danger to children. Stigma is correlated with elevated feelings of isolation, social and emotional dysfunction, and other mental health issues. Conditions like anxiety and depression are relatively common, and more than 1 in 3 MAPs experience suicidal thoughts.

MAPs may seek therapy for any of these issues, which are commonly associated with minor attractions. Additionally, some MAPs may seek therapy for help managing their attractions or due to concerns that they pose a risk to children, though the latter is typically unfounded, as the vast majority of MAPs never offend, irrespective of the treatment they receive. Others may seek support for reasons unrelated to their attractions.

Benefits of therapy

Many of the reasons MAPs pursue therapy mirror reasons non-MAPs may seek professional support. Therefore, the potential benefits of therapy for pedophiles and other MAPs are similar to desired outcomes for non-MAPs. They include:
  • eliminating self-hatred and feelings of shame or inadequacy
  • strengthening connections with friends and family members
  • addressing issues like depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts
  • developing coping mechanisms for uncomfortable feelings

Therapy may also offer additional benefits to MAPs, such as a better understanding of their attractions, a more positive self-perception, or healthy sexual outlets. In rare cases where a MAP has legitimate concerns about their risk of committing a sexual offense, therapy may reduce that risk by addressing risk factors and providing strategies to manage behavioral concerns.


It should be noted that there are some things therapy cannot achieve. Due to widespread misinformation about the purpose of therapy, some MAPs pursue it in the hope of changing or eliminating their attractions. Research indicates that therapy cannot alter or "cure" attractions, and efforts to do so would likely take the form of conversion therapy, which is proven to be harmful.

How does therapy work for MAPs?

Many of the mental health issues that MAPs may seek therapy for are the result of internalized stigma. Stigma is also associated with an increased risk of offending. As a result, experts have long recommended that professional support for MAPs prioritize overcoming the impacts of stigma. A 2022 study from Nottingham Trent University supported this, empirically demonstrating a link between "self-compassion" (self-acceptance) and "tangible treatment targets for MAPs."

Based on these findings, therapy should focus, in part, on promoting self-acceptance among MAPs. Therapists may also help MAP clients identify and correct internalized stereotypes about pedophiles and other MAPs, giving them a more positive and realistic self-image. This approach often uses acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which is centered around helping people accept thoughts and feelings while pursuing mental health goals.

MAPs may also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help them overcome anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem by identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. In addition, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be beneficial for MAPs who are struggling with shame, guilt, or self-harm, as it supports the development of coping mechanisms for difficult emotions.

In limited cases where a MAP is experiencing debilitating sexual urges, even after attaining a level of self-acceptance, this may be supplemented with libido-reducing medication to help the MAP in question function on a day-to-day basis. Finally, when there are serious concerns about a MAP's risk of committing a sexual offense, therapy may also include exercises to strengthen self-control and develop empathy for victims of sexual abuse.


Though therapy can have significant benefits for MAPs, it also carries substantial risks for this population. From false reports that can ruin lives to harmful tactics like conversion therapy, MAPs need to stay vigilant about potential dangers when making decisions about seeking professional support. That's why we recommend using a list of safe therapy resources and vetting potential therapists before disclosing any information or coming out as a MAP.

You can find information and resources related to therapy for MAPs here.
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