If you have been charged with a serious traffic or criminal offence, you have probably spent a lot of time already thinking about what you can do to improve your punishment if and when you are sentenced. For example, you may have gathered a handful of references from family and friends or you might have attended a defensive driving course.
But have you thought about seeing a psychologist before you go to court?
Even if you think that you do not need to see one, you might be surprised just how beneficial it can be – not just in court but in your life.
Read on to find out more about why you should see a psychologist.
Why See A Psychologist?
There appears to be a perception that psychologists are only for people who have serious mental health issues such as severe anxiety or depression. For this reason, many people don’t even consider seeing one if they are facing court.
The truth however is that seeing a psychologist can provide a number of benefits for people going to court.
Some of these benefits include the following:
Identification of Underlying Issues
Many people do not realise that they may have underlying issues which caused them to offend in the first place.
An obvious issue that could have resulted in offending is alcohol or drug abuse. While it might appear to be common sense, many people fail to make the connection between their substance abuse and their subsequent behaviour. Substance abuse could lead to anger which might result in an assault being committed. Or it could lead to depression which results in a poor ability to make good decisions at the right time.
A large number of defendants also have issues relating to their upbringing. For example, many violent offenders were assaulted themselves when they were children and therefore this type of behaviour has become normalised to them.
Psychologists are trained to explore and identify any underlying causes of anti-social behaviours. Once identified, a program can be established to address these underlying causes to prevent similar behaviour from occurring again.
Preparation of Reports
Psychologists are often trained to prepare “pre-sentence reports” which are reports prepared especially for court.
They review the patient’s circumstances and use that information to provide valuable insight into that person’s offending behaviour. On many occasions, the reports will also explain the risk of a person reoffending, suitable treatment plans and more.
Magistrates and Judges regularly rely on these reports when deciding what type of penalty should be imposed. For example, a report which argues that drug counselling should be favoured above going to jail could result in a person being given a probation order instead of being sent to prison.
Psychologists’ reports can therefore be an extremely valuable resource.
Support Through A Stressful Time
We would be lying if we said that going to court wasn’t stressful.
There is the uncertainty about what the outcome will be, the costs involved and more.
For serious charges, it is common for cases to go for a year or even several years, depending on the size and complexity of the case. This is a very long time to be worrying about what is going to happen to you.
A psychologist can help you to express your fears and concerns in a non-judgmental environment. They can also provide you with different coping techniques which you can use to help you deal with the stress of your court case.
This will not only benefit you but your family as well.
What If You Can’t Afford It?
Psychologists can be expensive, especially if you need to see them a number of times.
If you want to see a psychologist but you are concerned about the costs involved, we recommend that you speak with your GP to discuss what options are available. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for a certain number of free sessions with a psychologist. This might be all you need to get the full benefits but, if not, your psychologist will be able to provide you with further information to help you receive more sessions.
Ultimately, seeing a psychologist is only going to help you and your case. For this reason, we encourage you to at least look into the option of meeting with a psychologist. It might be just what you need!
There are many websites listing psychologists who can assist you – you can try the Australian Psychological Society as a starting point.