Court-ordered Therapy: Five things to look for when choosing a clinician in Florida

Court-ordered therapy is meant to be a catalyst for change, for an individual or family who, is at any time, involved in the legal system and subsequently ordered by a judge or magistrate to participate in therapy with a mental health provider. Throughout the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County, court-ordered therapy is used to persuade litigants to get the help they need, when they are unable or unwilling to seek it out on their own.

If a judge has ordered that you or a loved one must participate in individual therapy sessions, special consideration should be made to seek out a therapist with these qualities:

The court-ordered therapy should always be provided by a clinician with forensic experience, who is clear about the way that patient-doctor confidentiality, or “privileged” communication will likely be waived. During the very first meeting, the counselor should explain to the patient that he or she could be instructed by the Court to openly communicate the information disclosed within the therapy sessions. He or she should also explore how the the fact that therapy was court ordered could impact the patient’s motivation, openness to disclose information, and attempts to present in a positive light. The therapist will also need to have a firm grip on basic information pertaining to the court system, Florida’s statutes, and comfort with testimony and cross examination. This is an important factor in choosing the right clinician, as it is likely that the clinician may be subpoenaed in court to testify as a fact witness.

The clinician should be a mental health professional who should be aware of, and following, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) guidelines for Court Involved Therapy. These therapists or counselors must be keenly aware of the record keeping guidelines and trusted to provide sensitive and specialized psychological treatment for the parents, children, or families who are involved in the legal system. Keep in mind, the documentation and records kept by this clinician can be subpoenaed at anytime by the court which could lead to the clinician testifying in court in regard to the treatment progress, or lack there of.

A clinician providing court-ordered therapy should also have specialized training in the issues which present in court-involved cases, such as divorce, child welfare, parental fitness, high conflict dynamics. In addition to the ability to assess the degree to which legal processes will impact the treatment and consider issues that may influence the client or parent’s capacity in treatment, and the implications of treatment interventions on the legal processes. A potential case would include court ordered therapy would be parents who have child abuse allegations against them and are working on their case plan to regain custody of the children involved.

Overall, court ordered therapy is a way for individuals in the legal system to facilitate positive solutions for legal dilemmas under the supervision of a mental health professional. Since court ordered therapy will most likely play an important role in an individual’s legal situation, it is vital to choose a clinician with profound knowledge and experience in your specific situation as well as the legal system.

Here is the list of guideline topics, created by The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, for all court-involved and court-ordered therapists to follow:

  • Assessing Levels of Court Involvement
  • Professional Responsibilities
  • Competence
  • Multiple Relationships
  • Fee Arrangement
  • Informed Consent
  • Privacy, Confidentiality, and Privilege
  • Methods and Procedures
  • Documentation
  • Professional Communication

Our practice is well equipped with clinicians who are ready to serve your case. With our office conveniently located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, our clinicians are able to serve all of Palm Beach County with ease. Give us a call today to assist you in your case!

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