Forensic Evaluations


An evaluation will not be helpful for a legal process unless it assists the legal decision-maker. Most clinical psychologists are trained to provide treatment that helps consumers manage mental health concerns and build a life that is more consistent with their values. However, a small subset of clinical psychologists specialize in providing evaluations for use in legal proceedings - these providers are known as forensic psychologists. Specialized training allows a forensic psychologist to present clinical information and psycholegal analysis that is relevant to the legal context. Forensic psychologists typically complete the same doctoral training as clinical psychologists, and then pursue additional specialty training that qualifies them to conduct psychological assessments relevant to the legal issue(s) in question.



Dr. McLawsen performs comprehensive psychological evaluations for examinees in a variety of immigration law settings. Dr. McLawsen has published a peer-reviewed article that establishes best practice standards for "extreme hardship" evaluations, and has co-presented  post-doctoral training seminars on this topic. More recent publications include peer-reviewed articles that offers guidance on how people with a history of self-injury can overcome the mental health inadmissibility bar, and competence to proceed in immigration court. She is actively engaged in research related to other psychological issues in immigration law. Areas of Dr. McLawsen's expertise include:

  • Extreme hardship evaluations (I-601, I-601A, J-1 waivers, I-751 waivers).

  • Non-LPR cancellation of removal.

  • VAWA self-petitions.

  • I-751 waivers based on abuse.

  • U-Visa petitions.

  • Adam Walsh Act sexual recidivism risk and rehabilitation.

  • Violence risk and rehabilitation.

  • Alcohol and substance use rehabilitation.

  • Overcoming inadmissibility due to self-injury.

  • Exception to English and/or civics requirement for naturalization due to developmental delay or mental illness (N-648 waivers).


Dr. McLawsen routinely performs evaluations and provides testimony in criminal matters, including:

  • Competence to proceed.

  • Diminished capacity.

  • Not guilty by reason of insanity.

  • Mitigation.

  • Competence to testify as a witness.

  • Diagnostic formulation and treatment/community management recommendations.

Civil litigation

Dr. McLawsen routinely performs evaluations and provides testimony in a wide range of civil matters, including:

  • Psychological damages.

  • Professional liability/Applicable standard(s) of care.

  • Wrongful death.

  • Retrospective suicide risk factors and warning signs.


Many people wonder how a forensic psychologist approaches their work. Dr. McLawsen’s evaluations typically proceed according to these eight steps:

  1. Consult with an examinee’s attorney to clarify the legal referral issue and discuss case strategy, to ensure the evaluation is tailored to the legal issues at hand.

  2. Review available records such as educational, mental health, medical, and legal documents.

  3. Clinical interview with the examinee, which includes:

    1. Diagnostic assessment using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

    2. Objective, standardized assessment instruments (i.e., techniques to measure personality strengths and vulnerabilities, neurocognitive functioning, specific areas of concern, and treatment readiness). Under some circumstances, actuarial measures that address risk and protective factors may also be used to guide likelihood estimates regarding future violence.

    3. Discussion of evidence-based treatment recommendations.

  4. Review relevant peer-reviewed, published literature.

  5. As appropriate, consult with collateral contacts such as key members of the examinee’s support system and/or professionals who’ve had contact with the examinee.

  6. Analyze clinical information according to relevant legal standard(s).

  7. When appropriate, offer evidence-based treatment recommendations.

  8. Share clinical data with counsel and discuss next steps.