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Sane or Insane? Lawyers: How To Choose a Psychologist to Examine your Client-From Chicago and Cary

Aug 1, 2008
If you have been researching the psychological assessment process required to assess culpability, sanity or competency, you know by now that it is a lot more complicated than just giving a few tests.

The process of forensic and criminal psychological evaluation can involve hundreds of clinical issues, numerous testing instruments and many interviews of collateral contacts of the defendant.

There are not a lot of psychologists who practice in this area compared to others because it can be a pain in the neck to deal with defendants, adversaries, the legal process and lawyers themselves. Most psychologists prefer to practice in a cooperative problem-solving environment, rather than the adversarial and red tape-laden legal arena.

The psychological assessment of criminal defendants is complicated, time-consuming, sometimes contentious and the assessments themselves can involve a lot of red tape and a long time to complete. Most of us that do practice in this area do so because, despite the headaches, its important and can aid the judicial system in placing the blame where it belongs, thereby preventing tragic miscarriages of justice.

Also, some clients have nowhere else to turn. The charges they face, their incarceration, potential incarceration or even possible execution has turned their life upside down. Many defendants have little money, need the services of the public defender and those who do have financial resources are often on the verge of losing everything, or already have.

If any of your clients are criminally charged and possibly psychologically compromised, as their attorney, due diligence would mandate that you determine if they are, or have been impaired or compromised psychologically in any way which may mitigate their culpability.

So, if you've made the decision to hire a psychologist to do a sanity, insanity or culpability assessment of your client, what should you look for? By far, the most important criterion is length and breadth of professional experience.

You do not want a psychologist who dabbles in criminal cases. Psychological testing, assessment and clinical treatment should be a major part of his or her practice.

To screen your client for appropriateness, you must have some suspicion that your client may be, or might have been impaired. You should be familiar with the mindset of your client and have reason to believe that he may not have known the difference between right and wrong or may not have been able to make his behavior conform to the requirements of the law when committing the crime.

Has your client ever been diagnosed with a severe mental illness? Does he have any history of behavior which may be symptomatic of one? What are the observations of his significant others regarding the appropriateness of his behavior?

Does he take any psychotropic drugs? If so, for what? Is it possible that your client has any medical condition that results in mental impairment-brain injuries, thyroid problems etc.

The psychologist should have access to your clients medical records, family history, psychological records and work records Also, not unimportantly, he should have an excellent interview technique so he can develop a rapport with your client. Only with good rapport, will he be able to elicit information from your client that is detailed and accurate.

Your consulting psychologist should demonstrate interest, enthusiasm and openness. He should be accessible by phone, email and always respond to your queries promptly.

It does not matter where your consulting psychologist is located. If he is licensed as a psychologist in any state, under the appropriate conditions, he can practice on a per project basis anywhere.

Here are some sample questions you might ask when communicating with a prospective consulting psychologist:

1. How many psychological and court-related assessments have you done?

Answer: The answer should be over a hundred.

2. My client is accused of_________. Do you have experience with this type of case?

Answer: The answer should, of course, be yes.

3. Will you be available so that I can ask questions by email or phone?

Answer: Absolutely.

4. If you are not local, can you fly out and do the assessment personally?

Answer: Yes, as long as the expenses are paid.
About the Author
Dr Shery is in Cary, IL, near Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Marengo and Lake-in-the-Hills. He's an expert psychologist. Call 1 847 516 0899 and make an appt orlearn more about counseling at: http://www.carypsychology.com
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