VISTAS Client Characteristics and Needs

VISTAS Online is an innovative publication produced for ACA by Dr. Garry R. Walz and Dr. Jeanne C. Bleuer of Counseling Outfitters, LLC. Its purpose is to provide a means of capturing the ideas, information and experiences generated by the annual ACA Conference and selected ACA Division Conferences. Papers on a program or practice that has been validated through research or experience may also be submitted. This digital collection of peer-reviewed articles is authored by counselors, for counselors. VISTAS Online contains the full text of over 900 proprietary counseling articles published from 2004 to 2017.

Addressing “The Best Interest of the Child”: Working in High Conflict Divorce Cases

Jeanne D. Brooks


The use of mental health professionals as courtroom experts is controversial at the least, and this controversy increases when examining their use in custody decisions. The debate on using mental health professionals has been complicated by junk science practices used in the courtroom. Too often, mental health professionals enter the courtroom offering a professional opinion when they have not properly assessed a case or when they report on instruments they have not been trained in. However, current research suggests that there is a great need for mental health experts speaking to these cases. Research indicates these ongoing high conflict cases create stress and trauma within children that can negatively affect brain development. There is growing evidenced that children exposed to these types of high conflict cases show long-term negative impacts on their psychological well-being and academic performance. The need for mental health professionals in these cases to help evaluate the psychological needs of the child/ren and speak to the court about the effects of toxic stress on the developing brain is paramount. This information can lead the court to expedite the factfinding process, lessening the stress the child/ren is exposed to. The guidance mental health professionals can offer in these cases is invaluable.

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