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Chapter 10:
Psychological Evaluations


Working with People with Mental Health Conditions


OVERVIEW

There are many complexities associated with family advocacy groups, legal representation, and navigating the dynamics between adult clients and their families, particularly in cases involving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities or other mental conditions. Careful communication and strategy are important when dealing with family dynamics and the well-being of adult clients.

It is important to be mindful of the language used when addressing the competence and criminal responsibility of people with mental health conditions. Referrals to certain family and peer advocacy organizations might lead to misleading information regarding the competency and criminal culpability of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as unrealistic expectations about how the legal system operates.

Furthermore, there can be challenges relating to the involvement of well-meaning family members. The distinction between the desires of family members and the best interests of adult clients, especially when it comes to issues like limited conservatorship, underscores the needs for attorneys to navigate these complexities with care. At the same time, in addition to navigating any conflicts or differing perspectives that may arise, liaising with families can involve maintaining open lines of communication, addressing concerns, and facilitating a collaborative approach in cases where family members have an involved role in a client’s life. Balancing the court’s perspective, which may differ from the client’s best interests, adds another layer of complexity to the role of the attorney.

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