The efficacy of mental health services in the family court system: Legal professionals' perceptions

Date

2009-05

Authors

Greer, Michele Smiley

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Abstract

This study identified ways mental health professionals and specifically family therapists can benefit families entrenched in the family court system. This study explored how legal professionals use mental health professionals' expertise in the legal system and the appropriate roles of mental health professionals in this process. Looking at this information from a systemic perspective allowed the relationship between mental health professionals and legal professionals to be viewed as part of the solution for families in the family court system. Finding ways to increase the usefulness and collaborative nature of the relationship between mental health professionals and legal professionals increases the positive impact that context has on families. The mental health professional may provide guidance in matters of child custody and family adjustment. At very least, the mental health professional increases the amount of information available to the court.

Conclusions based on the results of the study indicated several statistically significant findings regarding important characteristics of mental health professionals including trustworthiness, expertness, the frequency of recommending counseling for children, the importance of involving mental health professionals in cases that are expected to go to trial, the willingness of mental health professionals to testify, and the importance of best interest of the children when considering the evaluation and testimony of mental health professionals. In addition, evaluations, recommendations, and/or expert testimony by health professionals in family court cases were viewed as important. A common thread weaving all findings together were the importance of building mental health practices on sound empirical and theoretical foundations.

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Keywords

Health and environmental sciences, Social sciences, Psychology, Family therapy, Family therapy and family court, Family therapy and legal professionals, Forensic family therapy, Forensic mental health professionals, Legal professionals, Legal professionals' perceptions of men, Mental health services

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