Forensic evaluations versus therapy.

Most psychologists are trained to provide therapy that helps clients recover from mental illness. A small subset of psychologists specialize in providing evaluations for use in legal proceedings - these are called "forensic" psychologists. Forensic psychologists are trained to understand the legal process and conduct a psychological assessment that is relevant to the legal issue(s) in question. An evaluation will not be helpful for a legal process unless it assists the legal decision maker. Specialized training ensures that forensic psychologists provide clinical information that is relevant to the legal context.

Immigration law evaluations.

Dr. McLawsen performs comprehensive psychological evaluations for subjects 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. She recently published a peer-reviewed article that offers guidance on how people with a history of self-injury can overcome the mental health inadmissibility bar. She is actively working on 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).

Evaluations in criminal cases.

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

  • Competence to proceed.
  • Diminished capacity.
  • Not guilty by reason of insanity.
  • Mitigation.

Other types of evaluations.

  • Competence to testify as a witness.
  • Diagnostic formulation and treatment recommendations.

Civil litigation expert disclosure reports

  • Wrongful death.
  • Applicable standard(s) of care.
  • Psychological damages. 

How is an evaluation prepared?

An evaluation typically involves the following steps:

  1. Consultation with subject’s attorney to clarify legal referral issue and discuss case strategy.
  2. Clinical interview with the subject.
  3. Diagnostic assessment using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
  4. Objective, standardized assessment instruments (i.e., techniques to measure personality traits, cognitive functioning, and specific symptom inventories). Depending on the referral question, actuarial measures may also be used to guide likelihood estimates regarding future violence.
  5. Review documents, such as educational, mental health, medical, and legal records.
  6. Review relevant peer-reviewed, published literature.
  7. As appropriate, consult with collateral contacts such as key members of the subject’s support system and, as relevant, medical professionals, mental health treatment providers, employers, or educators.
  8. Analyze clinical information according to relevant legal standard.
  9. When appropriate, offer evidence-based treatment recommendations.