FAQ Forensic Mental Health Evaluations

Why do people/lawyers/courts seek forensic mental health evaluations?

People need forensic mental health services for varying reasons. Some need to  comply with court orders while others need evaluations for employment reasons.  Mental health evaluations can be used in criminal court cases or to enhance a civil case currently under litigation. They can also be required for probation/parole purposes. Sometimes individuals may chose to seek a mental health evaluation as a “second opinion.” Sometimes people may need mental health evaluations for prior to medical surgery. Mental Health Evaluations are completed by a neutral professional with extensive training in mental health and forensics.

What can I expect in a forensic evaluation?

A mental health evaluation can take up to 8 hours to complete the testing and interview portion (for one adult).  When a custody evaluation is conducted it is a more involved process and usually takes between 30 to 60 days depending on the case.  At times, you may be asked to take certain actions outside of the interview, such as collecting information or keeping records.  You will be required to pay for evaluations in advance. At your appointment the reason for evaluation, role of evaluator, confidentiality issues (or lack of confidentiality) will be discussed. Your evaluation will include a detailed personal history, answering questions, and verbally participating with the evaluator. Most times you be given tests to complete. The tests do not have a “right” or “wrong” answer but are designed to assess your personality, level of mood, etc. Your evaluation may take one visit or more than one visit, depending on your situation. There are no right or wrong answers to give when talking to the evaluator. It is important to be honest and “be yourself.” Plan to spend three hours at your first appointment.

What benefits can I expect from working with a certified forensic evaluator/mental health professional?

A number of benefits are available from having your forensic evaluation completed by a mental health professional. Many people and/or attorneys find that working with a mental health professional to be a tremendous asset to managing difficult aspects of their case.   Some of the benefits available from forensic mental health services include:

  • Having a professional explain to a jury or judge your situation, possible diagnosis or lack of diagnosis
  • Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek forensic services
  • Improving your chances for successful jury selection
  • Refuting testimony of other opposing expert witness that could be potentially damaging to your case

Why do Mental Health Evaluations cost so much?

Evaluations are conducted by professional mental health evaluators who have a minimum of a Masters degree (six years of college). The evaluator also has many hours of post-Masters training and experience. The Evaluation is a lengthy process and includes the ability to assess, diagnose, provide comprehensive reports, and sometimes testify in court. Child Custody Evaluations are much more involved and take specialized training to conduct. They take many more hours to complete and include the ability to work well with children and adults. Often there is interaction with many people and other professionals.

Why do I have to pay for my evaluation in advance?

It is necessary to provide funds in advance of appointments, because the evaluator attempts to avoid being vulnerable to allegations of bias. It is helpful, in assuring both parties of objectivity, to be free to render one’s opinion or recommendation without fear of difficulty collecting fees.

What can I expect from a preoperative bariatric evaluation?

This office will conduct a mental status exam, psychosocial history, clinical intwerview and administer the MMPI2 test.

Here is a good article about this question:
by Anthony N Fabricatore, Canice E Crerand, Thomas A Wadden, David B Sarwer and Jennifer L Krasucki, Published online: 01 May 2006

Background: The prevalence of extreme obesity and the popularity of bariatric surgery have increased dramatically in recent years. Many surgery programs require that candidates undergo a preoperative psychological evaluation, but no consensus exists for guiding mental health professionals in the conduct of these evaluations. Method: A survey was sent to bariatric surgeons, who were asked to distribute the surveys to the mental health professionals to whom they refer surgery candidates for preoperative evaluations. 194 respondents provided information on the assessment methods they use, which psychosocial domains are the focus of their evaluations, and what they consider to be contraindications to surgery. Responses to open-ended questions were coded for content. Results: Most respondents reported using clinical interviews (98.5%), symptom inventories (68.6%), and objective personality/psychopathology tests (63.4%). A minority used tests of cognitive function (38.1%) and projective personality tests (3.6%). Over 90% of respondents listed mental health issues among the most important areas to assess. Similarly, 92.3% listed psychiatric issues as “clear contraindications” to surgery, but no specific disorder was listed by a majority of respondents. Issues related to informed consent and treatment adherence were the non-psychiatric domains most frequently listed as important areas to assess and as contraindications to surgery.

Conclusion: The assessment practices of mental health professionals who evaluate bariatric surgery candidates vary widely. No consensus is likely to emerge until large long-term studies identify consistent psychosocial predictors of poor postoperative outcomes.

Are Forensic Evaluations Confidential?

In general, the law protects the confidentiality of all communications between a client and a psychotherapist/Forensic Evaluator. Information is not disclosed without written permission. However, there are number of exceptions to this rule. Exceptions include:

  • Suspected child abuse or dependent adult or elder abuse. The Mental Health Professional is required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
  • If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person(s) The Mental Health Professional must notify the police and inform the intended victim.
  • If a client intends to harm himself or herself. The Mental Health Professional will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in insuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, further measures may be taken without their permission in order to ensure their safety.
  • Court evaluations.  The forensic evaluator can explain areas of confidentiality in each case.  Generally speaking the evaluator is hired to give the court recommendations so confidentially may be limited.

Interesting Links

The New Orleans-Birmingham Psychoanalytic Center website

National and Global Links:

The National Institute of Mental Health website

The International Psychoanalytic Association web site

The American Psychological Association website

American Psychoanalytic Association

International Psychoanalysis: contains book and movie reviews, essays and blogs about psychoanalysis

S.F. Archives: the premier site for Freud scholars, contains original works and correspondence

Freud Related Links:

The Freud Exhibit at the Library of Congress

Sigmund Freud and the Freud Archives: Links to his works and other freud related sites

Sigmund Freud Museum Web Site: Contains many great links, info and pictures

Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna, Austria: Contains links, info, and pictures Hea


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

If you are here because you have been denied veterans’ benefits for PTSD, you are not alone. In 2012, the VA claimed its own claims error rate was 14%. However, the VA’s own inspector general found a claims error rate of 38%.That means by even the VA’s own estimates they make mistakes in almost 4 out of 10 benefits claims cases! Additionally, appeals represent a third of the VA’s pending disability claims which means 1 in 3 cases the VA is processing are veterans appealing a denial.

A TDIU Vocational Evaluation can assist you greatly in gaining Objective Evidence of your Psychiatric Limitations/Mental Health Issues, to get an Objective Diagnosis, severity of issues and how they affect your employability and in Vocational Terms

How Do I Get Veterans’ Benefits for PTSD?

To get veterans’ benefits for PTSD, you need to establish a service connection between your PTSD disability and your time in service. PTSD is unique among veteran disability types because of the importance placed on stressors in diagnosing PTSD.  So, in order to get VA disability benefits for PTSD you will need to get a service connection by establishing a stressor or stressors that qualify you for a diagnosis of PTSD.

There are essentially 3 different approaches to proving stressors.

  1. The first type of stressor involves a situation where a combat veteran describes a stressor that is consistent with his or her combat exposure.
  2. The second type of stressor involves a situation where the veteran describes a stressor that is not associated with his verified combat exposure.
  3. The third type off stressor involves cases where the veteran’s PTSD stressor is related to fear of hostile military or terrorist activity while stationed in a combat theater of operations.

Credible supporting evidence is important in getting approved for PTSD VA benefits. But in practice, the “credible supporting evidence” requirement has been a major impediment to many Veterans receiving compensation for their PTSD diagnosis. Frankly, many things that happen in the service are never properly documented or recorded. As a result, it can be very difficult to prove that the stressor took place. Fortunately, in July 2010 the VA issued a new rule making it somewhat easier to prove that a stressor event happened during service. Under the new regulation, if a Veteran’s claimed stressors are related to the Veteran’s fear of hostile or military or terrorist activity then he could qualify for PTSD based on this as a stressor.

Additionally, in order to get VA benefits for PTSD, you might also need to get a private VOCATIONAL EXPERT OPININON to establish a connection between your service and your diagnosis and Vocational Limitations.

What Are PTSD Veterans Benefits?

Veterans benefits for PTSD are granted based on graduated disability ratings of 0%, 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%.  Veterans who receive a disability rating of 0% do not receive disability benefits because there is little or no impairment. Disability benefit payments begin at 10% and increase at each rating level.

Veterans have a wide range of benefits available to them. They range from VA pension benefits (non-service connected) and VA compensation benefits – to vocational rehabilitation and grants for adapted vehicles, housing and equipment.

Why Did the VA Deny My Veteran’s Benefit Claim for PTSD that a Vocational Expert and Help with?

The most common reasons why the VA denies benefits for PTSD are:

  1. The VA also likes to deny PTSD claims on the grounds that you don’t have a diagnosis of PTSD.  In many cases, however, if you are not diagnosed with PTSD you may be diagnosed with depression or generalized anxiety.  You would benefit from a TDIU Vocational Evaluation that tests for psychiatric/Mental Health issues and lists their severity and relationship to vocational limitations.
  2. Another reason why the VA denies PTSD benefits claims is because many veterans make the mistake of re-filing PTSD benefits claims without any new evidence or they submit evidence that is not really material to their PTSD, South East VE can provide you with New Objective Evidence.

In order to ensure the greatest degree of success in re-opened disability claims, we recommend that you look very carefully at the reason why the VA denied your claim the last time.  For instance, if the reason they denied you before was because there was no evidence of a present disability, then submitting a new medical record showing a diagnosed condition could potentially aid in getting your claim reopened.  The new evidence you submit should address one of the reasons why VA denied your benefits before.

SouthEast Vocational Experts can provide Objective Evidence of your PTSD and level of severity through our objective Testing.

Georgia Vocational Evaluation Disability Evaluation Vocational Expert

Divorce, Veteran, LTD, SSA/SSI –

SouthEast Vocational Experts: Leaders in Forensic Mental Health & Vocational Evaluations.

Disability Evaluation process and procedures differ depending on the Venue as well as the issued involved in the case.

this will cover the major aspects – each case is different and therefore will have different needs, we do not have a one size fits all assessment process.

Disability Evaluation – Forensic VOCATIONAL EVALUATION  PROCESS

1) Document Review – General list:

Hospital, Physician, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, & Counselor records, Disability Forms.

2)  We Use Both a Structured and Unstructured Diagnostic  Vocational Interview

This will be a review of the Veteran’s history and will also outline the Veteran’s age, education, current work status, past work experience, skills, current medical & psychological impairment(s), treatments, and physical & psychological limitations.

(This can be in-person or through SKYPE)

3)  Assessment of Current Information and determining if more documentation is needed.

– If needed we will create Medical and/or Psychological Source forms and/or Mental Residual Functional Capacity (MRFC), Physical Residual Functional Capacity (RFC).  This will be the disabled individual or their Representative responsibility to get completed and returned to us.

4)  Vocational & Forensic Mental Health Evaluation (Psychometric Assessments) (most cases will require one or more tests)

Based on the case we will determine what assessments need to be completed. We will assess not only aptitudes but also may measure Attention, Concentration (ADHD), Memory, Cognitive Abilities, IQ, Mental Health / Psychiatric Measures (Depression, Bi-Polar, Acute Anxiety,  GAD, PTSD, Schizophrenia, etc.)

5)  Perform a Vocational Diagnostic Assessment of Residual Employability.

this includes a Transferable Skills Analysis

6)   Labor Market Research (if needed)

Private, local, state, and federal government labor market studies to determine if any significant number of jobs exist that the claimant can perform in the local and national labor market.

The results of the vocational evaluation enable the Vocational Expert to render an opinion as to the employability of the permanently injured veteran’s and their ability to perform substantial gainful work activity based on quantifiable, accurate, and current information using Veteran’s Disability standards.

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We serve individuals nationwide, including clients near all VA regional offices and their areas of jurisdiction: places such as Montgomery, Alabama; Houston, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Anchorage, Alaska; Phoenix, Arizona; Little Rock, Arkansas; South Carolina; North Carolina; San diego, California; San Fransisco, California; Los Angeles, California; Oakland, California; San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; Hartford, Connecticut; Wilmington, Delaware, Washington, D.C.; St. Petersburg, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Honolulu, Hawaii; Boise, Idaho; Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Des Moines, Iowa; Wichita, Kansas; Louisville, Kentucky; New Orleans, Louisiana; Togus, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; St. Paul, Minnesota; Jackson, Mississippi; St. Louis, Missouri; Ft. Harrison, Montana; Lincoln, Nebraska; Reno, Nevada; Manchester, New Hampshire; Newark, New Jersey; Albuquerque, New Mexico; New York City; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Fargo, North Dakota; Cleveland, Ohio; Muskogee, Oklahoma; Portland, Oregon; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; Columbia, South Carolina; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Tampa, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Houston and Waco, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; White River Junction, Vermont; Roanoke, Virginia; Seattle, Washington; Huntington, West Virginia; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and Cheyenne, Wyoming.