The Utility of Polygraph in Sex Addiction TherapyPolygraph testing is a valid and reliable way to discern truth from deception on a wide range of issues including in therapeutic settings. In the past polygraph and professionals working in psychology were at odds. However improved technology and better standards in polygraph have brought the two camps together. Now, polygraph plays a critical role in the risk assessments done by psychologists in post-conviction sex offender cases. Virtually every state now includes polygraph in their post-conviction release process for sex offenders.
In a 2003 report on polygraph by the National Academy of Sciences, the panel stated, “We conclude that specific incident polygraph tests can discriminate lying from truth telling at rates well above chance but below perfection.” Much of the criticism of polygraph, including the criticism by the NAS is focused on pre-employment screening tests, not specific incident testing such as sex addiction disclosure testing.
In a 2020 meta-analysis of polygraph research, Charles Honts, Professor of Psychology at Boise State University (2020) found polygraph accuracy rates to be 91.6%. Across dozens of studies, the ability of humans to determine truth or deception is 54%. This includes police, prosecutors, judges, and the general public. So, polygraph provides significant information gain to therapists.
In a study by Elliot, Egan, and Grubin (2017) titled the “Bogus Pipeline Effect,” the researchers found that participants in the study who faced the prospect of undergoing a polygraph examination provided dramatically more information (86% vs. 36%) compared to a control group where polygraph was not mentioned. So, therapists who use polygraph increase the amount of information they obtain simply by including the polygraph in their client discussions.
There is now very little debate in the scientific community that when properly administered polygraph can be of significant value to end users. Sex addiction therapists who use polygraph have by and large been very happy with the information produced. Therapists should be careful to only use examiners who are full members of the American Polygraph Association. That information can be verified at the APA website: Polygraph.org and using the “Find a Member” search.
Mark Smith, Certified Polygraph Examiner
Member: American Polygraph Association, New Jersey Polygraph Association
Click Here to go to American Polygraph Association's " Find a Member" Search
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