Help me "pass" my psychological evaluation.
October 12, 2010 10:34 PM   Subscribe

Help me "pass" my psychological evaluation.

The question is a nuanced one. My (divorcing) wife has tried every which way to prevent me from seeing my child, and her last attempt was to say I am "suicidal" and a "danger" (I have had the occasional suicide thought over the years and unfortunately shared those thoughts with her when I trusted her). I have volunteered for a psychological eval to prove I'm not a danger, and have a 3 hour eval tomorrow with a psychologist. I'm certainly not trying to "game" the test, or lie, but I would like to know what I am in for, and what things I could say "more appropriately" rather than whatever rolls off my tongue or brain. For example if one were to describe Fight Club, you could say it was a bloodfest and anarchist's wet dream, or you could describe it as a movie regarding fisticuffs and revolt against overarching systems. One sounds exceptional, one sounds tame. I would like to sound Vanilla, any help?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would anonymize this question and talk to your lawyer.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:49 PM on October 12, 2010

We don't have lawyers.

If your wife is trying every which way to prevent you from seeing your child, you should really, really, really reconsider the above.

In re: the evaluation: tell the truth. Be positive. Don't seem paranoid. Say what you think a good person/father would say.

And get a lawyer.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:59 PM on October 12, 2010 [8 favorites]

I don't have professional experience in -any- of this, so this is coming from opinion only. I went through a few psych tests while in a psych ward and the final one was to see if I was well enough to get out of there, but YMMV.

1) Make sure you react to anything they ask you that's a heavily emotional topic. Seems obvious but I see such questions as intrusive and tend to respond by clamming up and becoming unemotional... which they see as a Bad Thing and a sign of unhealthiness. This goes both ways; try not to be unnaturally happy despite something (ex. "My dog died but oh well, life goes on!") or unnaturally stoic about anything.

2) Try to be optimistic and in general be in a good mood... so for example if you've had some unpleasantness in your life recently make sure you tell them what the silver lining is and how you're going to get through it.

3) I personally chose not to admit to any suicidal thoughts but if you would feel more comfortable telling them, then I would make sure you add in compelling reasons why you aren't going to do it or why you're no longer feeling suicidal.

Ultimately if there's anything questionable you're afraid they'll ask about that'll make you look bad, just try to have a silver lining and a reason why it isn't going to be a harmful factor in your life. Example if you've suffered depression in the past steps you've taken to overcome it, if you're seeing a therapist that's always a plus, self-help books, exercise, etc etc. Just anything positive you've done to change the things your wife is saying make you a "danger."
posted by biochemist at 11:06 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your spouse is asking you to go through a psych eval, seconding (thirding, and fourthing) the time to get an advocate. I assume your wife chose this psychologist? I would cancel the appointment and the go shopping for someone you feel comfortable with who, after you've evaluated them and gotten to know them, would be willing to evaluate you and write a letter on your behalf.

A three-hour evaluation by a stranger frankly sounds like an ordeal to me, and while you shouldn't game anything, it is in your best interest to find someone you feel comfortable talking with and whom you trust to provide a fair evaluation.
posted by zippy at 11:24 PM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

I have volunteered for a psychological eval to prove I'm not a danger,

Why? It can only bring you harm. This lawyer sees no benefit. Lawyer up NOW.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:46 PM on October 12, 2010 [15 favorites]

I definitely agree with zippy that the therapist needs to be someone you select or jointly agree upon. It's important that before you agree to go into the session, you know his/her specialty and reputation. Psychology isn't a "hard science" and so it's important to know a therapist's background and potential biases before you even walk into the office. If your wife is really playing hard ball, she might have cherry picked a therapist who she thinks will be unsympathetic to you. (Not saying the person wouldn't be objective, but in this scenario better safe than sorry.)
posted by miss-lapin at 11:47 PM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're in the midst of a divorce, your wife is doing everything she can to deny you custody, and you don't have a lawyer!?

I think you might be insane.

You should cancel the evaluation. It can't help you.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:54 PM on October 12, 2010 [21 favorites]

Also, agreeing with Ironmouth, unless a lawyer, your lawyer thinks it is a good idea to get an evaluation, it is most likely not in your interest. An evaluation becomes evidence, and any evaluation can go positive or negative.

Without an evaluation, you have no evidence from a licensed specialist that you are a danger. There is then little to no benefit to you to get an evaluation, in particular from someone that you have not selected and are uncomfortable with.
posted by zippy at 12:02 AM on October 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Sounds like the test is the MMPI.
If you google it, you can find some info- I checked and the link to had sample questions (75), to give you an idea what to expect.
Other links will fill you in on the scales they use to evaluate responses/ what the purpose of the questions are.
FWIW, if you have no documented history of mental health/legal issues, then I would deny any previous suicidal ideation. IANAD or a lawyer, but hearsay is viewed with great skepticism in divorce courts. The She said/He said factor is very high in custody hearings, and everyone in the court system knows it.
I am a little concerned about the "danger" part, and if there is a documented history of any abuse, or any psychiatric history, then you need to cancel the test, and retain an attorney immediately.
I wouldn't try to play around with something that is unnecessary and could be used against you easily. Is she taking the test as well? Why not?
Get a lawyer.
posted by Stellaboots at 1:22 AM on October 13, 2010

Ok you need a lawyer. Your wife wants to convince the court that you are a dangerous person. Your best shot at demonstrating that you are a safe and rational person and a loving and competent parent is to have a sane and competent lawyer advocating on your behalf. The psychologist your wife is sending you to is not this person. These things do happen all the time and divorce lawyers know how to deal with them in the most beneficial way for you.
posted by zachlipton at 1:59 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is like talking to the police without a lawyer after you've been arrested. There is absolutely no upside, everything you say will be used against you, no matter how much they try to convince you they are just trying to help you out or will help you cut a deal.

You soon-to-be ex is walking you into a trap where, no matter what you say, there will be something in there that can be used against you in the court. You need to do two things: first, absolutely do not go to this evaluation and second, get a lawyer asap.
posted by Fuzzy Dunlop at 3:04 AM on October 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

> if one were to describe Fight Club, you could say it was a bloodfest and anarchist's wet dream, or you could describe it as a movie regarding fisticuffs and revolt against overarching systems

Just a personal reaction, but neither of those sound remotely normal to me. A normal response, off the cuff, would be "it's a movie with Brad Pitt" and if asked to describe the plot, "A guy meets another guy and they start this thing called a Fight Club".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:20 AM on October 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

(Lotsa legal advice being offered in here, isn't there?)

While I agree that the advice to get a lawyer is good, the rest sucks.

Actually: the licensed professional should be a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. An actual medical doctor.

There is only downside if you are actually insane, or if the person doing the evaluation is biased.
posted by gjc at 3:58 AM on October 13, 2010

don't do it unless you have a lawyer. delay everything until you have a lawyer.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 4:42 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

seconding fuzzy. you will not be protected. child custody and visitation is nothing to get into without a lawyer.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 4:43 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cancel the appointment immediately and get an experienced lawyer or you are absolutely screwed. Any psych eval should be conducted by a forensic psychiatrist of your choosing who has experience as an expert witness.
posted by WyoWhy at 4:57 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

There is only downside if you are actually insane, or if the person doing the evaluation is biased.
Just because the only downsides seem unlikely (or at least the only downsides that you can think of, as someone who does not know the couple, the professional qualifications of the examiner, the relevant legal jurisdiction, and the current legal status of the process), the fact that there is no upside to submitting to this examination should be enough reason for the OP to cancel this appointment and get a lawyer.
posted by caek at 5:49 AM on October 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

I will go against the grain and say the psychologist should not be selected by either of you, per se, but should be someone experienced in doing psych evals in probate court for divorcing parents.

This will require a divorce lawyer who likely knows the way to get into an appropriate psychologist to conduct these tests. I would not go to just any psychologist or psychiatrist. I would explicitly seek one with experience with testing in divorce and custody cases.

(A former professor of mine does this as a second job --- in addition to interviewing people going on trial for violent crimes. What you're talking about doing, he'd see through, and he has the training and the knowledge to know that people in high stress situations like yours will behave in ways that are not completely in day-to-day character and includes such info. in his written opinion.)
posted by zizzle at 6:06 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Actually: the licensed professional should be a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. An actual medical doctor.

This is false. Forensic psychologists exist who have the same levels of training in psychological testing as psychiatrists. Sometimes the only difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist in certain areas is that the psychiatrist can prescribe medications because he or she has additional understanding of physiology and psychopharmacology, not necessarily that they have any better understanding of the mind.

The OP wants someone --- psychologist or psychiatrist --- with experience in testing people in divorce and custody cases. Some psychiatrists are good with this, and others are not. Some psychologists are better with this, and others not.
posted by zizzle at 6:11 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not your lawyer or your evaluator, but I have degrees and experience in both, and I suggest that this is not a good idea. Not. At. All.

I have read this question about 50 times and the only reference I see to not having a lawyer is in the comments, so I don't know if you have one or not. I bet not, and I suggest that you carefully evaluate your need for one. For major, life changing events that involve the legal system, it makes sense to me to put yourself in the best position for a good outcome, and that means finding a well qualified professional that you trust who can advise and guide you and advocate on your behalf.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:14 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

i went through two of these, though they were more focused on my potential for hurting the child as opposed to being suicidal.

the first was one was conducted by a msw affiliated with the court. she pretty much asked me to tell my life story, and occasionally asked pointed questions about some difficult moments that she was able to identify. i pretty much went in with an open mind figuring i didn't have anything to hide.

the social worker found in favor of my ex. i always thought the interviews went well and was pretty surprised at the result. i think one of the biggest mistakes i made was--because i had come from a job interview--i was wearing a suit.

so my attorney scheduled another evaluation with a second office. here the eval was headed up by I believe a psychiatrist. his interview process was more casual and the questions were more focused on the current dispute. he also asked more questions about my interactions with the kid in dispute. his office found in my favor.

in both cases i pretty much answered questions truthfully because i didn't have anything to hide. sounds like that might work for you, too. in my case, the second eval was taken a lot more seriously, so my advice there is to not worry and get a second one if the first one doesn't work out.

oh, and they're evaluating your wife too? they should be.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:44 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have read this question about 50 times and the only reference I see to not having a lawyer is in the comments, so I don't know if you have one or not.

It looks like the question was anonymized and the OP's comments removed before we got here.

To the OP: Don't mess around with divorce law, especially with kids involved. Like everyone is saying, get a lawyer and do what the lawyer says.
posted by gerryblog at 7:01 AM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Before this question was anonymized, I saw that one of the OP's previous posts indicated financial difficulties in the past. OP, I worry that you aren't lawyering up because you think it will cost money. Well, that's true, but it will SAVE you money in the long run.

It is always worth it to get a lawyer, even just to check over something easy that looks cut and dried. It will save you loads of time, money and worry -- now and in the future. ESPECIALLY with kids involved. You NEED a lawyer.
posted by Madamina at 7:54 AM on October 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

Nthing that you need a lawyer. You are being gamed by the other side.
posted by seventyfour at 8:56 AM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't say anything about legal stuff (except that yeah, lawyers are good) but I will say this: going through this kind of a legal battle for custody, a divorce, having your former confidante betray your trust in order to hurt you--all of these things could easily contribute to situational depression.

Basically, the evaluator might find that you're sad, lethargic, not enjoying life, not eating or sleeping well--it's a reaction that a lot of normal, healthy people would have in a similar situation.

I don't know a huge amount about forensic evaluations or how they're treated in court, but I could see how it could go wrong for you even if you're not a danger to your child in any way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:19 AM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would only add, after reading Madamina's comment: When we were in a custody dispute with our daughter's birthfather, he had a free court-appointed lawyer, which he was able to get by contacting the clerk of the court and submitting a request, which then had to be approved by a judge (IIRC). What I learned from this is that at least in some places, people involved in family law cases who cannot afford a lawyer may be able to get one provided at no cost, because the state perceives itself to have an interest in the well-being of the children in the case. I do not know how common this is. It sounds to me like you do totally need a lawyer and should not have a psych eval without consulting one, and if money is an issue you might try to find out whether something like this might apply to you.
posted by not that girl at 10:56 AM on October 13, 2010

Mod note: From the OP:
A follow up, (hope mods post anonymous). Thank you all! I followed some (not all) of the advice. I went to the appointment, it was a doc I picked randomly from my med plan, another I called suggested I needed a forensic psychologist (the court only said “psychologist”). My random pick happened to be a forensic psychologist! Your suggestions caused me to really evaluate him and the process before agreeing to it once I got there. Since he’s giving me the results directly (and no one else) I can choose to use them or toss them in the deepest hole I can find, no one knows I went yet but me (and you all). Of course with some digging someone could find out but we don’t have layers or PIs or anything… yet. And I am confident of the results. While I don’t have a lawyer, I have seriously reconsidered that, I will continue to assess this as we move forward, she doesn’t have one but if she gets one I will immediately follow suit. I will look at free legal/lawyer options (thanks, not that girl).

FYI , I have no history of violence (good movie) or psychological (or physical) illness, no suicide attempts, no plans, no activities hurting myself or others, the last time I hit someone in defense was in Jr High over 20 years ago! I have never been emotionally, psychologically, sexually, or physically abusive in any manner ever in any relationship or with friends, or with anyone I have ever encountered (nor experienced it myself). “Situational depression” is exactly what we are talking about, your normal, “when everything is going wrong you get sad”, kinda thing, never lasting more than a few hours.

The process started with a 20+ question scantron, I could see it was testing if I was going to be a liar or if I was truly “crazy”, and obviously a quick eval/screening tool. Questions like “I would lie if I had to”, “I have occasionally driven over the speed limit”, “I have tossed litter on the ground”, answers ranged from “not at all” to “absolutely” or some similar qualitative range. I was completely truthful and I tend to be a grey area kind of person, so hopefully that kept the screener nice and clean.

We then went for 2 hours asking every question under the sun, I could clearly see the ones trying to clarify different mental diseases “who is the president”, “have you ever heard voices no one else could hear?”, “what floor are we on?”, “have you ever had your mind controlled by another entity?”, “have you ever been euphoric without reason?”, “I hate…?”, “I love…?”. Also a thorough medical questionnaire and family history questions. Seriously it was easy to see what they were going for with the eval, all the questions were either outright revealing “have you ever attempted suicide?” or questions would reveal who you were through how you saw the question through your own worldview, and how you would choose to respond “worthyness is?”, “the one thing I want people to know about me is?”. There were also some very vague questions/statements to really reveal your thought processes such as respond the these statements: “the world is”, and “I am” and the most confusing of all (for me) was when I was asked to respond to this statement: “Who”. That’s it! “who”, I was a little taken aback by trying to respond to “who” without any context, so I just did my best trying to answer the ambiguous “who” statement. I felt very comfortable that unless someone really twisted my answers one could clearly see I was both relatively normal (something we all hope we are), and no danger to myself or anyone else. I did stay very positive and somewhat careful as I can be way too revealing about myself, thoughts, motivations, etc. (aka this post) and apparently the world wants you to fall in line with your thoughts.

I will have results in a few more days, and I will try to post a summary if the mods will indulge me. Again I thank you all. I was looking for advise and re-assurance, and that is what I got!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:30 AM on October 18, 2010

« Older Is the Fit a fit?   |   Marriage? That's for life! It's like cement! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.