You may have noticed on our home page that Etheridge Psychology offers three main types of services: counseling, psychological testing and assessment, and forensic psychological services. Each of our clinicians has a unique background of education and experience, and we are pleased to be able to serve children, adolescents, and adults with a wide variety of needs.
Our counseling services range from supportive therapy for life changes and events to therapy for a specific mental disorder such as an anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or PTSD. Our evaluation services include clinical psychological evaluations, neuropsychological testing, and psychoeducational testing.
One part of our practice is forensic psychology.
What is forensic psychology?
Forensic psychology refers to the interaction between psychology and the law. Forensic psychologists working in a private practice setting assist the courts by conducting psychological assessments of individuals involved in the legal system. They also provide consultation services to attorneys who have questions about a psychological topic that pertains to a legal issue. They often testify in court as expert witnesses. Some forensic psychologists also work in other settings, such as prisons, juvenile detention facilities, and police departments.
What forensic services do you provide?
At Etheridge Psychology, our forensic psychologists conduct psychological evaluations in various areas. We also provide consultation services to attorneys and testify in court. Our job in a forensic evaluation is to answer questions posed by the court. Following are some examples of questions we answer in our work:
Does this individual have a mental disorder that is affecting their functioning?
Is this individual fit to have unsupervised visitation with, or custody, of their minor child?
What is a child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of this minor child?
Does this individual have the capacity to handle their financial and personal affairs?
Did this individual have the capacity to waive their Miranda rights?
Does this individual have the capacity to stand trial?
Was this individual criminally responsible for the crime they committed?
Is this individual at risk for committing a violent or sexual crime?
In civil court, we are often involved in divorce and child custody proceedings as well as guardianship cases and immigration cases. In criminal court, we are often involved in cases involving abuse (e.g., child abuse, elder abuse), violence, sexual violence, and homicide. Evaluations of violent individuals are conducted in jails and prisons.
We are sometimes asked to conduct a forensic psychological evaluation outside of the court system, but still for a legal purpose. Examples include psychological fitness evaluations, which are typically requested by a workplace or educational institution. This type of evaluation may be requested after an incident at work or school or if a workplace or educational institution has reason to believe that a worker or student has a mental disorder that might affect their ability to perform or their safety with coworkers or classmates. An evaluation may also be requested at the beginning of employment in a high-risk profession such as police officer.
How is a forensic evaluation different from a regular psychological evaluation?
An entire article could be written solely to explain all the differences between clinical and forensic evaluations, but here are some of the main differences.
A “regular,” clinical psychological evaluation is done for the purpose of diagnosing a mental health condition and recommending treatment for that condition. It is a healthcare service in which a patient receives services by a doctor. People visit us for clinical evaluations when they have mental health related symptoms and want to know if they have a mental disorder. They may also be referred to us by a physician or counselor.
A forensic evaluation is not done for healthcare purposes; it is a legal service. As such, the individual being evaluated is not considered a patient, and no healthcare services are provided. Since a forensic psychological evaluation is not a medical service, it is not covered by health insurance. None of our current contracts with health insurance companies permit us to bill them for a forensic evaluation. The results of the evaluation are typically released to the individual’s attorney or directly to the court rather than to the individual being evaluated.