What’s the difference between therapy and a psychological evaluation?
Therapy and evaluation are two different functions that should be performed by two separate people.
A therapist works for you.
- You have the right to confidentiality, with a few exceptions. Therapists can break confidentiality if they suspect that children are being abused – also called “mandatory reporting” – or if they reasonably believe you are likely to harm yourself or someone else.
- Your communications with your therapist are usually privileged in court. This means the therapist cannot be required to testify about what you tell them without your permission. (Don’t expect your therapist to testify for you in a divorce or custody case. Judges know that therapists’ clinical impressions are not objective and often discount them. But be aware that your partner’s attorney may subpoena your therapist, and use what they say to make you look bad to the court.)
An evaluator usually works for the court.
If you are involved in a custody and visitation case, the court may require you to have a psychological evaluation. The evaluator’s job is to make an unbiased, objective recommendation to the court. Don’t expect them to be your advocate. (You can also hire an evaluator on your own, if you think it would help; make sure to hire someone who has expertise on domestic violence.)
- You have no right to confidentiality. What you reveal – intentionally or not – will be evaluated and will be discussed in the evaluator’s report to the judge.
- The evaluator should not be someone who has been a therapist for any family member – they can’t be objective. Have your attorney bring this to the judge’s attention.
- The evaluator should not become the therapist for anyone in the family, because they may still have to communicate with the court and need to remain objective.