3 Ways Forensic Psychological Evaluations Differ From Psychological Counseling

Forensic psychological evaluations are completed by a neutral psychologist and are used to determine an individual's state of mind in relation to the law. Forensic evaluations are used to determine whether a person was in a sound state of mind when a crime was committed. They are also sometimes used in determining custody and visitation agreements between parents when psychological issues may influence the well-being of the child. Although forensic evaluations may seem similar to an initial counseling session, there are a few key differences.

Forensic Evaluations Are Not Protected By Doctor-Patient Privilege

Perhaps the most important distinction between a forensic evaluation and normal counseling is that the information discovered during an evaluation is not protected under doctor-patient privilege. This means that anything you share with the psychologist during your evaluation can be used to further guide an investigation or against you in court. A forensic psychologist is expected to remain neutral and impartial in their evaluation, which means they are not working for one side or the other, but are simply trying to uncover the truth of your psychological state. 

Forensic Evaluations Usually Concentrate on the Past or Present 

When you start going to counseling, you may discuss issues in your past, but the focus will generally be your present state and what plans you can make to improve your future. Conversely, forensic evaluations tend to concentrate on specific past events and, in custody cases, your current psychological state. There is little to no discussion about improving your state or focusing on your future. The goal of an evaluation is not to offer you treatment but to simply evaluate you. The concentration on a past event, especially a traumatic one such as a violent crime, can be unsettling for some people, so it is important to go into your evaluation knowing what the focus will be. 

Forensic Evaluations Involve a Combination of Examinations

With counseling, the conversation remains between you and your counselor. Your perspective is the most important one. However, with forensic evaluations, the conversation will likely be much wider. Other individuals may be examined or interviewed and their impressions of you will be taken into consideration along with your interviews. Videos, journals, or letters may be submitted to the psychologist. All of this is intended to give a well-rounded understanding of your psychological state at a specific moment. 

When undergoing a forensic evaluation, it is important to remember that it differs from counseling. This will help you prepare for some of the questions and intense conversations that may be part of your evaluation. To learn more, contact a counseling center like Carewright Clinical Services.