Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Art of Forensic Psychology

The Civil Arena

Among the issues that mental health experts may handle in civil court or mediation are:

Emotional Damage
Personal injury cases involving trauma, or emotional pain and suffering, make up a large part of the caseload for a forensic psychologist or psychiatrist.  Notably, post traumatic stress disorder is a common condition for assessment in civil cases.  Yet attempting to provide a standard definition for this condition has been difficult, as has been evaluating its long-term effects, such as depression, substance abuse and delayed symptoms.  Clinicians who specialize in this area are better prepared to make these assessments and some of them have developed financial scales for settling suits.

Involuntary Treatment
If there is the chance that a person may become violent toward others or himself, a psychiatrist may have to assess the possibility that he or she should be hospitalized, even if that person does not wish to be.  Depending on the state, a finding of dangerous' may range from imminent threat of violence to self-neglect that may lead to foreseeable deterioration.

Child Custody
Mental health experts may be asked to assess a parent's abilities to care for a child, based on the child's best interests.  At stake are issues of visitation privileges and possible treatment for a parent or family.

Harassment and Discrimination
In the workplace, mental health professionals have played important roles in labor law, including the evaluation of employee complaints that involve emotional injury. They cannot express an opinion about whether an environment is hostile or abusive, but they may assess emotional distress and its future repercussions, which in itself can be suggestive of hostility in the workplace.

In summary, forensic psychology and psychiatry cover a wide range of activities for the legal arena, and in the field of psychology, it is an area that has drawn increasingly more focus from both research and clinical professionals.

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