Dr. Stalberg Responds to Three Questions About His Experience
Why would I need a Forensic Psychiatrist? Should I look for a Forensic Psychiatrist who will represent my side of the story? What do you actually do, Dr. Stalberg, and how do you get paid?
Why would I need a Forensic Psychiatrist?
Where the law meets mental health issues, a Forensic Psychiatrist should be consulted. His experience has prepared him to assess the veracity of a case, the diagnosis of a client, and a variety of legal matters. He is able to provide a clinical evaluation of contributing factors, circumstances and outcomes affecting injured victims or accused perpetrators. The psychiatrist, unlike a psychologist, is a medical doctor relied upon by criminal courts for expert testimony, insurers to ascertain the veracity of a claim, as well as employers and employees in complex Workers Comp cases involving mental injuries.
Should I look for a Forensic Psychiatrist who will represent my side of the story?
This is a question of ethics and integrity. I believe that professionals like myself cannot enter a case with bias or an agenda, because this will ultimately taint the results. For example, let’s say, an employee hired a Forensic Psychiatrist to evaluate his case and find for the employee, but in a nearly identical case, that doctor was hired by an employer and this time found in their favor. Be honest now. Could you or anybody for that matter be able to rely on such a system? Of course not. You can just as easily be a victim of such deceit as gain from it. Any professional who might be willing to compromise their integrity in this way would actually put at risk the legal validity of your case — even if they ruled for you. This can result in a miscarriage of justice. What I do is rely on the data or evidence and provide an objective evaluation based on my expertise and experience. Even in the role where I provide consulting services to a court or an attorney, it is my professional duty to provide an objective expert opinion, orally or in writing, without consideration for the role of the advocate. In many cases, I am selected by opposing interests to provide my evaluation, because they can trust that the outcome will be objective and trustworthy.
What do you actually do, Dr. Stalberg, and how do you get paid?
Forensic Psychiatrists may be involved in criminal matters, but this part of my practice is occasional — when I am called upon to assess the mental health of a defendant or the impact on a crime victim. I have also been involved in civil cases and depositions, such as lawsuits, where the issue of competence may be raised and I am hired to evaluate the ability of a person to consent to wills, make agreements, or provide safe custody. While I have worked with courts and law enforcement on some sensational cases, the large majority of my time is spent on evaluating or examining patients, primarily in Workers Comp cases, investigating and receiving input from various interests in a case, talking with colleagues, reviewing medical records and writing reports. In fact, as my work involves a great deal of writing, I dictate much of it to my very capable support staff. There are also deadlines to consider, which must be met, but for the most part, I have control over my time, and that’s important, to insure that the cases I am on receive appropriate and undivided attention. In most cases, I charge an hourly fee; the rates are set by the State, and paid by the employer/insurer. Most Forensic Psychiatrists charge about the same so price should not be an issue, but on occasion when the expertise required may be more specialized, the fee might reflect it. Attorneys may operate on the basis of a ”contingency fee,” but the outcome of a case is not an appropriate basis for psychiatric consultation.