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Proving Claims of Egregious Emotional Distress

Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.

Clinical & Forensic Psychologist

Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness


When it comes to proving claims of egregious emotional distress in a legal setting, a comprehensive Forensic Psychological Evaluation is essential. Such evaluations include comprehensive clinical interview data and empirical objective psychometric testing data to provide greater reliability and validity of the evaluation. Additionally, the inclusion of a forensic measure, to determine if clients are malingering or feigning symptoms, further enhances the evaluation's credibility.


The clinical interview portion of the evaluation is crucial as it allows the psychologist to gather important information about the client's background, history, and current functioning. By obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the client's background, the psychologist can better assess the presence and severity of emotional distress and functional impairment.


While clinical interviews provide valuable subjective information, psychometric testing adds an empirical and objective component to the evaluation. These tests measure various aspects of the client's emotional functioning, such as depression, anxiety, anger, and posttraumatic stress. By utilizing standardized measures, psychologists can compare the client's results to those of a relevant population and determine the severity of their emotional distress. Combining clinical interview data with psychometric testing data provides a more robust assessment of the client's emotional state.


In addition to comprehensive assessment data, demonstrating the proximate cause of the client's emotional and functional problems is crucial. A forensic psychologist examines the link between the alleged incident and the emotional distress and functional impairment experienced by the client. This requires a detailed analysis of causation, often involving collateral information (e.g., therapist's notes). Through this process, the forensic psychologist can provide an expert opinion regarding the cause of the client's emotional distress, strengthening the validity of the claim.


Forensic psychological evaluation is invaluable in proving claims of egregious emotional distress. By including both comprehensive clinical interview data and empirical objective psychometric testing data, these evaluations become more reliable and valid. Assessing whether clients are malingering or feigning symptoms adds further credibility to the evaluation. Furthermore, establishing the proximate cause of emotional distress and functional impairment strengthens the client's claim. Ultimately, the use of forensic psychological evaluation provides essential evidence to support claims of egregious emotional distress and sheds light on the impact it has on an individual's emotional and functional well-being.


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