SERVICES FOR THE COURTS AND ATTORNEYS

JusticeInformation about Psychiatry
What is psychiatry?
What is forensic psychiatry?
What is the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist?
How can I learn more about mental illness?

Psychiatric Evaluation
How can a forensic psychiatrist help me?
Can a treating clinician perform a forensic evaluation?
What does the psychiatric evaluation involve?
What else will the forensic psychiatrist need?
How do I contact Dr. Hicks for a psychiatric evaluation.

Case Consultation
How do I know if I need to hire a forensic psychiatrist?
Can a forensic psychiatrist assist me in a case without performing an evaluation?
What consultation services are offered by Dr. Hicks?

Forensic Coaching
What is forensic coaching?
What coaching services are offered by Dr. Hicks?

What is psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine dealing with mental illnesses. Mental illnesses are classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM, currently in its fourth, text-revision edition) published by the American Psychiatric Association and include: temporary reactions to stress; phobias, panic attacks, and anxiety; depression; bipolar disorder (commonly known as manic-depression); schizophrenia; obsessive-compulsive disorder; post-traumatic stress; personality disorders; drug and alcohol disorders; sexual disorders; autism and mental retardation; attention-deficit and learning disorders; and dementia and delirium.

The field of psychiatry sometimes overlaps with the field of neurology, since both involve the brain.

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What is forensic psychiatry?

Forensic psychiatry is a subspecialty of psychiatry that applies psychiatric knowledge within the justice system. Forensic psychiatrists may be asked to evaluate plaintiffs, defendants, and witnesses and share their expert experience and opinions with the court.

The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology has certified psychiatrists as having added qualifications in forensic psychiatry since 1994. Forensic fellowship training has been required since 1998. More than forty accredited fellowship programs currently exist in the United States to train forensic psychiatrists. Similar programs and certifications exist for forensic psychologists.

Forensic psychiatry also refers to the practice of psychiatry in a forensic setting, such as a jail, prison, or high-security psychiatric hospital.

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What is the difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist?

Psychiatrists have an M.D. or a D.O. (osteopathic) degree and are licensed to practice and prescribe as a physician. They have graduated from both medical school and psychiatric residency. A psychiatrist is able to perform a medical examination, order medical tests and procedures, prescribe medication, and perform psychotherapy.

Psychologists have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree and are also referred to as doctors, though they are not medical doctors. They often have more experience than psychiatrists in providing specific types of psychotherapy and in administering psychological tests that assist in diagnosis. They tend to have less experience with psychiatric medications and medical conditions, and they cannot prescribe.

In most cases, forensic psychiatrists and forensic psychologists perform similar sorts of evaluations for the courts and provide similar reports and testimony. Sometimes a psychiatrist or a psychologist is preferred on account of his or her relative expertise in medical issues or psychological testing that may be important in a particular case. Statutes or regulations may specifically require a psychiatrist or psychologist in certain situations, or assign them different roles.

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How can I learn more about mental illness?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR, published by the American Psychiatric Association, 2000) lists all mental disorders, the criteria required for their diagnosis, and associated clinical features. It is a valuable reference for attorneys who commonly represent clients with mental health issues. However, it is primarily a manual for mental health clinicians and may be difficult for a layperson to understand and navigate through.

Dr. Hicks’ 50 Signs of Mental Illness is an award-winning layperson’s guide to mental illness that is helpfully organized around commonly recognized signs and symptoms of mental illness. You do not need to understand psychiatric nomenclature to use the book. It has been praised by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Journal of Psychiatry, and a number of newspapers and health magazines. The book includes an extensive index and listing of other resources, some of which can also be found on the resource page of the book’s Web site.

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How can a forensic psychiatrist help me?

In many legal circumstances, the mental state of the plaintiff or defendant may be a relevant issue which a forensic psychiatrist can address. Questions of mental state may involve psychological motivation, traits, and syndromes, even if these features do not meet criteria for a specific psychiatric disorder. Forensic psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers can also portray the unique psychosocial developmental history of a defendant that may be helpful in explaining to the court any extenuating or mitigating circumstances.

A forensic psychiatrist has specialized knowledge that can assist the trier of fact in making determinations. A carefully performed and convincingly written evaluation by a forensic psychiatrist may be sufficient to resolve a case without further deposition or trial.

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Can a treating clinician perform a forensic evaluation?

Clinicians should not be retained as forensic experts on patients they are also treating. Role conflict and bias is inherent in such a dual role, and forensic organizations strongly warn against such practices. Clinicians are also generally inexperienced in forensic evaluation. It may be convenient to ask a treating clinician for a forensic opinion, but his or her opinion will be easily undermined in court. Forensic opinions should always be sought from an independent forensic expert.

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What does the psychiatric evaluation involve?

A forensic psychiatrist will evaluate the plaintiff or defendant in his or her clinical office, in the attorney’s office, or in a holding cell if the subject is incarcerated. The examination is relatively focused and typically lasts from one to several hours. More than one examination may be needed, in order to follow-up on additional information or to evaluate changes in the subject’s mental state over time. The examination typically includes an exploration of the subject’s psychosocial and treatment history, a review of symptoms, a mental status examination, and an interview regarding the legal issue.

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What else will the forensic psychiatrist need?

Collateral information is essential in forensic evaluation. In most cases, the forensic psychiatrist will want to review all available records (medical charts, criminal complaint and history, previous evaluations, statements of witnesses, etc.) before examining the subject. The evaluator may also request to speak directly to collateral sources, such as family members, co-workers, or victims. In some cases, the forensic psychiatrist may recommend additional medical or psychological testing or investigative procedures.

One of the most embarrassing mistakes, typically made by an inexperienced evaluator, is to rely on a subject’s inherently biased account without seeking available corroborating information. A skilled forensic evaluator, in contrast, will seek out all sources of information that might be relevant to the case. When such records are missing or not provided, they often eventually turn out to include crucial information. Your expert should consider all evidence before forming an opinion so as to avoid being confronted with new information during deposition or testimony.

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How do I contact Dr. Hicks for a psychiatric evaluation?

Dr. Hicks has testified and been qualified as an expert witness in hundreds of cases in the field of psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, or the evaluation of sexual offenders. He has performed forensic evaluations in cases involving criminal responsibility, competency to stand trial, civil commitment, sex offender commitment, treatment of insanity acquittees, involuntary treatment, malpractice, and emotional injury.

Use the following e-mail address to contact Dr. Hicks. Please mention who you are, the service you are seeking, and a phone number where Dr. Hicks can reach you if necessary.

DrHicks@forensicmind.com

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How do I know if I need to hire a forensic psychiatrist?

You can contact a forensic psychiatrist to explore whether his or her services would be useful to you in a particular case. A forensic psychiatrist may be able to assist you in clarifying the legal issue to which mental state may have some relevance. The forensic psychiatrist may also be able to steer you to other experts if the case involves questions outside his or her range of expertise, or to other relevant institutions (such as official clinics that serve the court).

You may ask a forensic psychiatrist to review records, including evaluations performed by others, so that he or she can advice you on whether further evaluation might be helpful. However, forensic psychiatrists may be reluctant to hear details of a case or offer suggestions in the absence of a formal retainer.

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Can a forensic psychiatrist assist me in a case without performing an evaluation?

Forensic psychiatrists can serve as consultants in a case. For example, they can review and critique a psychiatric or psychological evaluation performed by your expert or the opposing expert. They can provide you or your expert with relevant scientific literature. Though not attorneys themselves, forensic psychiatrists may be familiar with statute, case law, and regulations pertaining to mental illness and be able to advise you on legal strategies relevant to a particular case. They may also assist you in court or deposition by observing witnesses and offering critiques and suggestions.

Some forensic psychologists have studied the psychology of the courtroom and may also be able to advise you on issues such as jury behavior and jury selection. A forensic social worker can gather a psychosocial history of a defendant that may be helpful in preparing a defense strategy or disposition. Forensic social workers may also have particular expertise in cases of child custody, neglect or abuse, termination of parental rights, or spousal abuse.

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What consultation services are offered by Dr. Hicks?

Contact Dr. Hicks if you have a case that may involve mental state, mental illness, or psychosocial development. Dr. Hicks will assist you in determining whether his or another expert’s services might be useful to you. If you have already retained an expert, Dr. Hicks can review your expert’s report and provide helpful suggestions. Dr. Hicks can also review an opposing expert’s report and point out the strengths and vulnerabilities of the evaluation and expressed opinion.

Though a psychiatrist, Dr. Hicks can also provide useful advice regarding forensic reports written by experts in other medical specialties, who often have no forensic training or experience.

Use the following e-mail address to contact Dr. Hicks. Please mention who you are, the service you are seeking, and a phone number where Dr. Hicks can reach you if necessary.

DrHicks@forensicmind.com

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What is forensic coaching?

Forensic coaching is a form of professional review and/or training of one forensic examiner by another with experience in the field. It is not to be confused with an attorney "coaching a witness."

Most doctors have had very limited experience with the court and legal cases. They lack a thorough understanding of the governing legal principles and goals of forensic evaluation. Their training has prepared them only to write clinical reports that are inadequate for forensic purposes. This is particularly true of medical physicians who, unlike psychiatrists, have virtually no contact with the legal system until they are retained by an attorney. They are unaware of potential pitfalls (clinical, legal, and ethical) that can jeopardize their contribution to a case.

Even those with forensic training or experience can benefit from professional review by an expert colleague, particularly in disputed cases where the stakes are high.

The goal of a well-written forensic report is to be clear and convincing so that the legal case can be resolved satisfactorily, hopefully without further deposition or testimony.

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What coaching services are offered by Dr. Hicks?

Dr. Hicks has more than ten years’ experience reviewing and editing thousands of forensic reports and teaching psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and trainees how to perform a thorough forensic evaluation, write a clear and convincing forensic report, and testify clearly and accurately in court. He has also coached medical physicians in preparation for testifying in court.

Contact Dr. Hicks if you want to know the strengths and weaknesses of your expert’s report. Dr. Hicks can help your expert generate a state-of-the-art report that conveys all relevant facts clearly and that formulates a convincing opinion. (Dr. Hicks will not seek to change an expert’s opinion or spin an opinion that is not supported by the data. Rather, his goal is to help the expert clarify how he or she reached the opinion.)

Though a psychiatrist, Dr. Hicks received awards in general medicine as a medical student and intern and has supervised medical physicians as acting clinical director at a large state psychiatric hospital. He can review a medical expert’s report for style and logic and dialogue with your medical expert to clarify scientific content that is outside Dr. Hicks’ own area of expertise.

Use the following e-mail address to contact Dr. Hicks. Please mention who you are, the service you are seeking, and a phone number where Dr. Hicks can reach you if necessary.

DrHicks@forensicmind.com

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