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Child Custody: Practice Standards, Ethical Issues, & Legal Safeguards for Mental Health Professionals

By Dermer, Shannon | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Child Custody: Practice Standards, Ethical Issues, & Legal Safeguards for Mental Health Professionals


Dermer, Shannon, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


Woody, R. H. (2000). Child custody: Practice standards, ethical issues, & legal safeguards for mental health professionals. Sarasota, FL: Professional Resources Press, 148 pp., $19.95.

In this extremely litigious society, clinicians have the precarious position of trying to do what they think is right juxtaposed with protecting themselves from legal and ethical repercussions. Woody, using his vast experience and training, offers a book that attempts to juggle the needs and rights of clinicians, clients, society, and in particular children whose parents are divorcing. He tackles the issue of child custody from an ethical, legal, clinical, and humanistic approach. The intended audience is mainly mental health professionals/graduate students planning to offer legal testimony in child custody disputes. However, Woody contends the book is also appropriate for lawyers and parents going through the legal process of divorce.

The book is based on a scientist-practitioner approach. Consequently, models containing a strong professional, theoretical, and research foundation are emphasized. Woody's overarching theoretical approach is a blend of the cognitive social-learning approach and family systems. He believes political, legal, and mental health systems prefer this combination because it allows professionals to view children's beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors as a product of their immediate context (family) and biology/heredity.

Topics covered in the book include the effects of divorce, constructing a theoretical framework for custody evaluations, protecting children, understanding the legal system, suggestions for determining child custody, clarifying the clinician's role in a custody case, case management, confidentiality, and testifying.

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Child Custody: Practice Standards, Ethical Issues, & Legal Safeguards for Mental Health Professionals
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