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How Mental Health Experts Can Help in Cases

Expert Witness: Dr. Richard J. Stride, Psy.D., MBA, LPC, LMHC
Do you need a mental health expert in your corner? Mental health and the justice system have been working side by side for decades. Forensic Mental Health Professionals have been called upon to evaluate and/or assist in many cases over the years.

However, lawyers are not always certain if help from a mental health professional is warranted or needed. In many cases involving human behavior, psycholegal concerns can arise at various junctures, e.g. pretrial, trial, sentencing, etc. Issues can arise such as the competency or the diminished capacity of an individual at the time a crime was committed. Mental health professionals have at at their disposal a variety of techniques to help with the defense or prosecution of such cases. Some of the tools in the professional’s tool box are psychological tests, clinical mental health evaluations, and appropriate interpretation
of a person’s history as it pertains to a crime. Matters of criminal responsibility pertaining to mens rea and guilty-but-mentally-ill cases are sometimes a hard sell to a jury, however, a good mental heath professional with forensic experience can help significantly.

Custody cases are another area where a forensic mental health professional can be of help. Although in these cases the outcome does not necessarily depend on the professional’s recommendations the court holds the opinion of a forensic mental health professional in high esteem because of his or her unique perspective on the developmental and familial challenges facing a child or children whose parents are battling over custody. When working with parents I try as a forensic mental health professional to educate parents and help them understand the divorce from their child perspective. I emphasize that their children will react in direct proportion to how they react. If the parents are fighting and bitterness continues, the children will act out at home, at school, and in the community. The anger and bitterness over the loss of a marriage dream can be overwhelming, especially for those who did not want the divorce in the first place or if the marriage broke up due to infidelity. The hurtful scars can last a lifetime and the parents may need to seek professional help to cope with the hurt and anger. The parents however, need to look past their own personal agenda’s and see the divorce process through the eyes of their children who are experiencing things like, divided loyalties, fear, hurt, and depression.

The children are affected in direct proportion to the length of the divorce process, is a well known fact in mental health. This is not to say that if the case is settled in a timely manner the child or children will not be affected; quite the contrary, the effect will be less so than if the parents drag it out.

Not only are mental health professional experts at diagnosing and treating behavior problems but their experience can also aid in the successful outcome of a case. Behavior is not always predictable but behavior patterns are. Behavior patterns emerge as persons develop and have experiences. Usually around age 11 or 12 personality becomes more solidified and behavior can be predicted with reasonable accurateness. It should be noted that behavior predictions are not 100%, but a qualified forensic mental health professional can help develop a clearer picture of not only criminal responsibility but of future culpability. There really is no limit as to the help a forensic mental health specialist can offer in criminal and family law cases.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Richard J. Stride, PsyD, LPC, NCC, LMHC
I am licensed in Colorado and Washington states as a Licensed Mental Health Professional, as well as certified with the National Board for Certified Counselors since 1997. I am also a Certified Forensic Mental Health Evaluator, Diplomate with the National Board of Forensic Evaluators. All of my clinical practice has been provided for under these licenses and certifications, as is the expert witness testimony.

I have extensive knowledge of forensic evaluations of all types as well as effective case presentation in court. I have been qualified in court as an expert witness in mental health, child abuse, adult psychopathology, and developmental disabilities.

I am trained and qualified to administer and score objective and projective testing instruments, including but not limited to The Minnesota Mutiphase Personality Inventory (MMPI), Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI), Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, and a host of other testing instruments.

Copyright Dr. Richard J. Stride, Psy.D., MBA, LPC, LMHC

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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