I conduct psychotherapy, I do not accept
managed care, and so I always assume that clients
paying me out of their own pockets really want help and therefore are not
deliberately lying to me. Psychotherapy, after all, depends on
Nevertheless, people do lie, for a variety of
guilt, fear, etc.and
the lies have to be dealt with as therapeutic issues. In such cases, clients
essentially pay me for the privilege of
changes if a person
commits a crime
and then wants to make a legal defense based on his or her mental
is ordered by
the judicial system to be psychologically evaluated,
is ordered by
the judicial system to receive
on the grounds of psychological damages.
In cases such
as these, there are strong motives for deception which can cast the shadow
of doubt on everything that is said in psychotherapy. Here are some points
guilty due to a mental condition is known as an insanity defense.
is a legal term, not a psychiatric term, and so it doesnt imply anything
about the nature of the underlying disorder. Just about any major psychiatric
disordera psychotic disorder (e.g., schizophrenia), a mood disorder
(e.g., major depression), an anxiety disorder (e.g., PTSD), or a dissociative
disorder (e.g., DID)could be used as the basis for an insanity
past, drunk drivers who caused motor vehicle crashes used to argue that they
were not responsible for their behavior because they were under the influence
of alcohol. But eventually the legal system saw through the foolishness of
this argument. If a person drinks willingly, and gets into a car willingly,
then the resulting crash is not an accident, its the final
event in a long string of intentional
Therefore, just as the under the influence of alcohol excuse
was abused in the past, the insanity defense is often abused today as a way
to wiggle out of personal responsibility for ones
In its most charitable purpose, the insanity defense should simply be a way
to recognize when a persons judgment is impaired by psychological factors
beyond his or her personal intention. In such a case, the person can be sent
to mandated mental health treatment, rather than to prison.
Now, in a perfect world, a person found not guilty by reason of insanity
would, in receiving mental health treatment, gain insight into his or her
unconscious motivation, feel profound
sorrow for the injurious behavior, and could then implore
forgiveness from those he or she injured.
Unfortunately, we dont live in a perfect world; we live in a world
filled with social fraud and
illusion. And thats why a web page such
as this must find its place on a psychology website.
direct: some people will go to any lengths to avoid responsibilityand
punishmentfor their behavior. Some people will also do just about anything
to get rich quickly. Whenever a crime has been committed, or compensation
is sought for psychological damages, a clinician would be a total fool not
to consider the possibility that a mental disorder could be outright
fakeryclinically known as malingering.
Even in cases
involving genuine mental disorders, things may not be as simple as they seem
on the surface.
can be consciously
in order to get extra attention, special privileges, monetary compensation,
a person has a mental disorder doesnt mean that he or she is always
telling the truth. This can really complicate things, even to the point of
making it seem that the entire disorder is faked. For example, a person may
have a genuine case of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), also known as
personalities, but if one of the personalities
lies about just one aspect of the case, it might
arouse enough suspicion that all the other facts about the case lose
If a person who
has been victimized attempts to find healing through psychotherapy while
litigation is still in process, there will always be some
part of the person that
desires to remain disabled in order to prove the legal case.
For this reason, true psychotherapy will be hindered, if not impossible.
Vengeance may feel satisfying, but real psychological healing can happen
only if the person gives up the pride
of victim anger.
With so much
of our lives influenced by unconscious
motivation, it can be nearly impossible to determine just why a person did
anything. Whatever conscious reason a person gives for his or her actions,
a dozen unconscious reasons could be in the background. So whos to
say what is the legal truth?
this, it can be said psychologically that no matter how much we try to
tell the truth, we are always lying. Granted, the lies may not be deliberate,
but, in all that is said, there is always something left unsaid. And there
is always some motive left unspoken.
In fact, as long
as anyone has something to gain there is reason for deception. Is the DA
prosecuting a vicious criminal, or is he simply looking for a conviction
to add to his record? Is the assistant DA prosecuting a rapist, or is she
trying to get revenge on her father for having sexually abused her as a child?
Is the defense attorney representing an innocent client, or is he more concerned
about buying a yacht with his fee? Is the police officer giving an accurate
account of her struggle with the accused, or is she distorting events in
light of fights she has had with her husband?
In effect, the
legal presentation of evidence amounts to nothing more than a person
showing the court what he or she wants the court to see. And
so innocence, if it is to be discovered at all, can be found only in that
place where there is nothing to gain. Which, by the way, is also the place
of humility. And love.
And yet, our
entire legal system in the US functions on the concept of discovering the
truth. Think about that.
to be learned here is this:
If someone has anything to gain from diagnosis or treatmentother than
the personal satisfaction of learning how to live an honest and intimate
anything for granted.
Once a client
has been hypnotized or given a sedative drug to enhance memory or
past experiences, he or she may not be allowed, in some states of the US,
to testify in any kind of civil or criminal proceeding. So if you expect
to initiate a lawsuit in the future, it would be advisable to consult with
an attorney before attempting any treatment that involves
hypnosis or hypnotic drugs to enhance memory.
Compensation for Mental Suffering
world, it often happens that a person who is injured by another party tries
to recover personal damages through a lawsuit (called a tort). If,
however, the injured person includes mental suffering as a basis for monetary
compensation, then confidentiality about any prior
psychological treatment is lost and everything about the past clinical
record becomes open to the court. So, if you have any history of psychological
treatment that might be embarrassing if it became public knowledge, you should
think twice about including psychological damage as grounds for any
advertisingno sponsorjust the simple truth . . .
See Stewart, A. E., & Lord, J. H. (2002). Motor vehicle crash versus
accident: A change in terminology is necessary. Journal of Traumatic Stress,
Association of State and Provincial
Psychology Boards for the link to your states Board of
The California Board of
Legislative Council Website
the official site for California legislative information.
Related pages within A Guide to Psychology
and its Practice:
Consumer Rights and
Diagnosis in Clinical
Questions and Answers
Types of Psychological
INDEX of all subjects
on this website