So far in our series of articles we have talked about finding a good attorney and a good therapist. The next step in the process is to talk to your attorney about a psychosexual evaluation. In most states and in Federal cases, the prosecution will have you undergo an evaluation with a therapist who works either for or on behalf of the state, county or Federal government. It is normally always a good idea to have one done by a psychologist who is not working for the organization that is prosecuting you.
First, what is a psychosexual evaluation? The evaluation is comprised of an interview with a psychologist, a lot of psychological testing and a review of all forensic documents related to your case. What tests you take often depends on the clinician who is doing the evaluation. These objective measures will test for factors that may have both influenced your committing the crime you are accused of and may influence you to commit the crime again. For example, you will likely do some type of personality test to see if you have any mental health diagnoses that influenced your crime such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, etc. You will also likely be asked to take some test that will assess your likelihood of having a substance abuse problem, as this is sometimes correlated with certain types of crimes.
How do you find the right person to conduct the psychosexual evaluation? If you have an attorney, he or she may have a psychologist that they work with closely and will refer you to that person. If you are looking for this person on your own, there are a few things you should be on the lookout for. First, you need someone who has a Ph.D. and has been trained to give the types of tests that you need. Not all therapists have the training to be qualified to administer certain psychological tests. Second, the psychologist who performs your evaluation needs to be experienced in performing psychological evaluations for sex crimes. Not all forensic psychologists work with sex crimes. Some, for example, perform evaluations for competency to stand trial. Third, your evaluator should be a member of ATSA and familiar with the latest research related to offenders of your type of crime.
A question I often am asked is “what happens if the evaluation says something bad?” My first response to this question is that there is nothing about an evaluation that is “bad.” An evaluation is a combination of facts, testing results and opinion based on all those elements. However, if you are concerned about the outcome of the evaluation, there is a solution. If the evaluator is retained by your attorney and paid for by your attorney, the report then falls under attorney-client privilege as client work product. This way, if your attorney does not feel that the evaluation will help you, he or she will not use it during your sentencing.
In most cases, the psychosexual evaluation is used for sentence mitigation. Your attorney may use a favorable evaluation in the plea negotiation process beforehand. Your psychosexual evaluation will be part of the pre-sentence memorandum that your attorney files with the court prior to your sentencing. This report will give the judge information as to some of the reasons why you committed your crime as well as provide the judge with some information about your risk of recidivism (commit another crime). The judge will take all this information into account when they are determining your sentence.
If your attorney does not suggest an evaluation, ask them about it. Whether or not you need an evaluation or if it may be helpful will depend on your case and your jurisdiction. We provide these suggestions as they are helpful in our geographic area of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Jennifer Weeks is the owner of Sexual Addiction Treatment Services. She specializes in the treatment of sexual offenders and cybersex offenders. Through her program she provides psychosexual evaluations, treatment and expert witness testimony. SATS also offers coaching services for those people who are being investigated but are not in Pennsylvania.