10 keys to know when you need a judicial psychological report
These are fundamental ideas that you should know before requesting an expert psychological report.
During my career as a professional in Forensic Psychology, I have always encountered many and varied requests from people who need a report for the judicial field. Even with clients in both civil and criminal (or any other field) who, generally, were not very clear about why or what they wanted that report they needed for a trial.
To understand it all, we must take into account that in our country, the figure of the Forensic Psychologist or psychologist began in Spain in the 80's, to gradually grow throughout the territory. A Forensic Psychologist is an expert psychologist within the judicial field.The work of this lawyer is to evaluate and make reports on objects of expertise requested by the parties.
Initially, his figure was always better known in the public sphere, especially in the family sphere, when there were child custody problems involved. And, later, also extending its figure as a private professional.
For a long time it has been thought that the public professional was more neutral, or his assessment was more correct than the private professional, due to the false belief that "as the client pays that professional, it is understood that he has less neutrality". Obviously this is not and should not be so, being more and more a relevant figure within the Spanish legal system, not for being private or public, one is neither a better professional, nor more neutral.
That is why I am going to give you 10 keys to know when to look for a psychologist to make an expert psychological report..
How and why to look for a psychologist to do judicial psychological reports.
Keep these key ideas in mind when making a decision.
1. It is not therapy, only evaluation
Don't look for a therapy psychologist, it has nothing to do with. The psychologist who gives you a therapy can make you a history report, but it is not a report with the guarantees nor with the content nor with the appropriate form for the judicial environment.
Thus, the professional who is only a therapist is not trained to intervene in the legal field. If you need therapy, look for a therapist, but if you are ill because of some psychological sequel that, although it may require treatment, is related to a justification for a trial that you need to obtain, look for a Forensic Psychologist.
2. If you need proof of your mental state...
Whether for various reasons requested by the client, the psychological report is always evidence in a trial, and that is its function. is always a proof in a trial, and that is its function..
If you need proof of a psychological sequel after a traffic accident (let's say, for example, that you develop a phobia of driving after an accident, or that after a crime, you develop a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), you need to be able to prove two things: that you really have a disorder and that it is really generated by that episode.
This is where the report comes in, because it is an exhaustive evaluation mechanism that, in addition, must be properly argued and justified by the most up-to-date literature and the latest research in each area that is outlined in the report. The more formal and detailed your evidence is, the more chances you will have of a judgment in your favor..
3. It is key when you seek the truth
If you have a court problem, don't fall into believing that the mere fact of hiring a court psychologist to do a report takes for granted that the report will only prove you right. If you think that way, you are wrong.
The professional should always be neutral, whether hired by you or appointed by the court itself.. And this is what you will receive in the report, sometimes it will be beneficial for you, sometimes not, and sometimes neither one nor the other.
4. You need a complete job
Too many times I have been told "why such a high price for a report, I can have it in two afternoons". Or that "what I need is something simple for a trial". This is a big mistake, if you go for a report you have to ask for a complete work..
A good report is not done in "two afternoons" and there are no "simple" reports. The psychological expert's report takes a process that begins with a previous analysis: when the client, either through himself or through his lawyer, asks you the object of the expert's report. The first thing is to study if it can be carried out, to see what tests or ways of evaluating you should apply, and finally to make a budget of the service you are going to provide.
Then comes the evaluation, which is not fixed, since it can be extended, and this should be included in the price of the report beforehand, since what you are paying for is not only the cost of the report, but also the cost of the service. what you are paying for is not only the professional's time, but also the final result of the test he/she has performed for you..
Finally, the report must be written, the results must be reflected and, most importantly, the conclusions must be justified; because let's remember that, as evidence, it is useful for the elements of the Spanish legal system, which are in charge of such important decisions, to have as much data as possible.
But this is the report, then a return is usually made with the customer.. It is important that you understand what has been obtained and then you have to defend or ratify that report in oral hearing / trial, which could be anywhere in Spain.
If you read this remember that when you hire you are looking for a professional to do the whole job, even if this entails a high price.
5. Valuing custody
The reports do not do not decide the custody, but they reflect the relationship between the parents and their children to see the educational suitability and of relation that they have between them, in order for the judge to value if the parents have custody.The reports do not decide custody, but reflect the relationship between the parents and their children to see the educational suitability and the relationship between them, so that the judge can assess whether a custody is appropriate for a father or a mother.
I make this point because in the field of minors it is very common to request these reports. And yes, the examination can be made to the minor advising to the other part, although this one does not agree, if it is for the accomplishment of a report..
A good forensic psychological report is essential for this area, and here it is important to look for a well-trained and specialized professional.
6. The time needed to present the evidence
The most common problem is that clients ask you for a report to be done in a week or 15 days; always, as a rule, when I receive this type of clients I usually reply that my professionalism prevents me from adjusting to such short deadlines.
This is because a report is not something that is done quickly, if you go back to point 4 you will see all the steps that must be passed. Therefore, whenever you are going to request a report, do it in advance, at least one month in advance..
7. Don't stop hiring it because of its price: well thought out, it is not as expensive as you think.
I would like to expand on this with respect to another point. The expert reports are expensive, normally they are around a price superior to 1000€ (this in the year 2020), but what you are going to hire is not just anything, it is something that can make the difference between one result or another in the judicial environment..
By logic, a complex tool that must be, in addition, defended in court, will be expensive. In addition, it is not a payment in installments, but a one-time payment, so in the end the investment is not as big as you think.
Here is a comparison. If you go to a health/clinical psychologist for therapy sessions, on average the session usually costs about 50€ and you go weekly for 6 months, which may be the appropriate duration. At the end of your intervention you have paid around 1200€ (probably more). Seen from this point of view, now the work of a psychologist in the judicial field is not as expensive as it seems.
8. When it is useful and you really need it
Here sometimes it is not so much the client's fault, but his lawyer's, who in an attempt to obtain one more piece of evidence that may help, encourages the client to seek a report.The lawyer, in an attempt to obtain one more piece of evidence that can help, encourages the client to seek a report; but then this report is either not necessary or it is really insubstantial.
Let's take again the example of the traffic accident; let's think that the person develops a psychological sequel, and the lawyer asks the expert to evaluate the credibility of the testimony. This could be done, but there is no point in evaluating this aspect, and a psychopathological evaluation of the after-effects would be more useful.
Furthermore, countless times I have been asked to evaluate another person, for example, the opposing party, without seeing them. This is impossible and is a blunder, besides the fact that it is unethical and does not make sense. The professional can only record the information that he/she has evaluated and about the people he/she has seen..
9. Be clear that it is a tool, not a guarantee.
It is normal for a client, when requesting a report, to want it to be perfect; he deserves no less. But a good report is not a guarantee of victory in a trial, even if it is favorable to the person.
It must be understood that it is just another tool, but it does not give a total guarantee.because it is totally uncontrollable. Do not hire it if you are not aware of this point.
The important thing is to have well-trained professionals and a well-defined object of expertise to maximize the possibilities.
10. Good and healthy questions
Sometimes the objective is not only to have the report. It is also to know that the lawyers should ask the right questions so that the professional can extend this information in an oral hearing..
In other words, having just the report and the professional arrives and says: "I ratify it", is basically losing money. It is important for the lawyer to take into account what he can and should ask; he will do so if it is favorable to him, but also if it is not. Because his objective is to dismantle the report as evidence if it does not benefit his client, or to support his thesis if it gives him a better chance of winning.
It is also important to know how to ask questions about the opposing reports, although in Spain the figure of the "counter-report" is not very well regarded.
Interested in learning more?
If you need more information to request a report, please contact me; my name is Rubén Tovar, I am a Health Psychologist and specialized in Clinical, Legal and Forensic Psychology by the UCM and founder of Terapiaencasa.es. Both myself and my partner Luis Lucio Lobato, Health Psychologist and university professor, carry out reports throughout Spain.
From our methodology we always intervene two professionals, because it gives more credibility and neutrality to our reports. In addition, we always justify with the maximum detail all the information we include in our reports.
If you need more information, please ask for it through these contact details.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)