Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Title

The Role of Mental Health Professionals in Cases of Child Sexual Abuse as Seen Through the Eyes of Judges

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Marilyn S. Snow

Second Advisor

Kevin Stoltz

Third Advisor

Timothy Letzring

Abstract

The involvement of Mental Health Professionals (MHPs) in cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) is complex and intimidating. There are legal rules and academic suggestions to guide the MHP in this endeavor, but in experience, these rules and suggestions are lacking. Current literature and research indicates that there is little if any direct knowledge on how judges perceive MHPs who testify before them in court. A qualitative phenomenological inquiry that directly interviewed five judges about their perceptions of MHPs in cases of CSA was undertaken. The results indicate that MHPs should be more intentional about their choices regarding involvement in court, more proactive about educating the legal system regarding MHP involvement, more willing to advocate within the system for the best interest of the child, and more confident about the significance of MHP involvement in CSA cases.

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