Jan Keith opened The Helping Place in the spring of 2006 with one purpose; to offer counseling services and quality mental healthcare to individuals who might not otherwise qualify for care. The programs at the local office focus on issues like anger management, parenting and divorce.

Keith, through her years in counseling, has obtained various certifications and licenses and has put many hours into her business of helping people heal. She earned a master’s degree in psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy, which she obtained from Texas Women’s University in Denton.

The staff of three licensed counselors and two interns at The Helping Place provide advocacy for crime victims including victims of abuse and assault. They offer expertise in dealing with sexual and domestic violence so that survivors can take full advantage of their options from various human service organizations and agencies. They also inform the victims on their various legal options.

On the flip side, Keith in her private practice, has been working for the last 20 years to help rehabilitate sex offenders and is a licensed sex offender treatment provider.

“I was working for MHMR in Stephenville as a unit supervisor when I got started counseling sex offenders,” Keith said. “I started getting calls from doctors and judges wanting help. I went through the necessary preparation and training.”

Keith said that only those who have been appropriately trained are armed with the skills and understanding needed.

“Sex offender treatment is a specialty licensed by the state,” she said. “You must undergo criminal background checks, pass FBI checks and complete hours of course work.”

Her clients are required by the terms of their parole or probation to complete a minimum of three years of treatment. She counsels sex offender groups in Stephenville, Mineral Wells and Eastland and has clients that travel from as far away as Decatur and Azle to attend meetings.

The state has an outlined set of “rules” for successful completion of treatment, a stringent set of guidelines that Keith works each week to instill through group discussion and exercises.

The offender must, among other things, admit and accept responsibility for their crimes, demonstrate the ability to control their deviant sexual arousal, understand the sexual offense cycle, increase pro-social behaviors and support systems and complete polygraphs on their sex history. In addition, the offenders must establish approved safety and relapse prevention plans.

“Above all things, I am a therapist first. It is my job to really get to know my clients,” Keith said. “All offenders are not the same.”

Those she counsels range from individuals dating someone underage to registered sex offenders. Then there are the predators who pray on the weak, seeking the needy and manipulating their victims until they are caught.

In the treatment process, Keith said that most of her clients try very hard to stay on track with their treatment. They remain open and honest and complete their requirements. There are those who never return to their deviant behavior and those who end up back behind bars.

In treatment, Keith said she prefers a group setting.

“It’s hard to fool everybody,” Keith said. “The main thing about sex offenders is that they are very narcissistic and manipulative - it is hard to get over on a group.”

She said that through the years there have been problems with the system when it comes to offender treatment. Now, as laws change, treatment becomes more manageable and cohesive.

“From county to county, sex offenders laws have varied over the years,” Keith said. “Now, the laws are becoming more standardized and that makes my job a lot easier.”

(To look into the mind of a sex offender and learn more about their treatment, see Tuesday’s edition of the Empire-Tribune.)