Aspen Practice, P.C., dba as Michael R. Bütz, Ph.D.

Services

Approach to Assessments and Consultations...

Standards - What Benchmarks are Used for the Work?

The foundation consideration for any consultant, evaluator or practitioner is what is the licensing or national standard for the work they are performing. Fully respecting other disciplines, each discipline has its own guidelines or standards typically established with licensure or published my a national association. Also, again respecting other disciplines once again, it is important to know that some licensing Boards may not require a thorough examination of an applicant or licensee's training, supervision, or experience to do the work involved with assessments, consultations or evaluations. Likewise, certain disciplines licensing Boards may not have requirements for conducting more specialized services, such as what are generally referred to as a custody assessment or evaluation, or a parenting plan. Then, the same applies to national standards as well. Some disciplines may not have standards for what is required to claim a specialization. Still others may not have standards for conducting certain pieces of forensic work. So, the consumer of forensic services, as well as other behavioral healthcare services, would do well to be informed by these guidelines, licensing requirements, and national standards, or, their absence.

As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Bütz was required to submit his training, supervision and experience as well as three full redacted psychological reports to the Board of Psychologists before he was even considered for licensure. Then, as part of the oral examination before the licensing Board these experiences were reviewed as well as his work products prior to granting his request for licensure and despite the fact that Dr. Bütz had been licensed previously in three other states: Idaho, Maine and Wyoming.

After years of practice in Montana, and noting concerns about the absence of a similar licensing process for other disciplines engaging in work with identifical terms (see Open Letter from The Montana Psychologist), Dr. Bütz began prefacing any consultation or psychological assessment with the following consumer notice.

CONSUMER NOTICE REGARDING PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENTS

The Psychological Assessment you are about to review had been conducted by a duly Licensed Psychologist, who has been required to submit his training, supervision and experience to a Board overseeing the practice of Licensed Psychologists and assure that it meets with established national standards requiring years of graduate coursework at an accredited institution.  In the state of Montana, Licensed Psychologists are required to submit work samples as well as submit to an oral board of examination in order to demonstrate their competence in this area of practice.  With regard to other professionals describing their work as Psychological Assessments, it is important for consumers to know that, currently, there are no similar requirements in place for these professionals. 

Several years later, the Montana Board of Psychologists encouraged other licensed psychologists to use similar language based on Dr. Bütz's notice. See link below and on that webpage under the heading, Consumer Notice Regarding Psychological Assessments - http://boards.bsd.dli.mt.gov/psy

In addition, and pertaining to more specialized services within the State of Montana, licensed psychologists also are required to adhere to the following statements on custody assessment or evaluations, or parenting plans; here properly referred to as Parenting Plan Evaluations under the Administrative Rules of Montana: http://www.mtrules.org/gateway/ruleno.asp?RN=24%2E189%2E801

 At a national level the American Psychological Association has also provided important guidelines for two very different kinds of specialized work that licensed psychologists engage in, and in this example the aforementioned custody assessment or evaluations, or parenting plans as well as Child Protective Services work. But, before providing those guidelines it is important that consumers are informed that it is generally recognized within the field of psychology that before one holds themselves out as a professional who provides these specialized assessments and/or evaluations that they have extensive background and training with child development, marital and family dynamics, and at least adult psychopathology. In addition, these practitioners have put in the years of training, supervision and experience required before claiming a forensic specialization; and then, these practitioners have also engaged in the years of training, supervision and experience required to claim this particular specialized expertise for custody or parenting plan work. Obtaining this level of training, supervision and experience is an arduous task for any practitioner, and yet the work concerns our most innocent clientele and the care of our society with the integrity of a family in the process of change weighing in the balance. As such, the American Psychological Association has put forward the following guidelines to direct the work of licensed psychologists:

Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings

http://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/child-custody.aspx

Guidelines for Psychological Evaluations in Child Protection Matters

http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/child-protection.pdf

As one last set of considerations, and working with your attorney, it is important to consider the professional's history of work in a particular area and/or their specialization. While consumer reviews provide one source of information (see Reviews and History tab above); there are others such as District and Supreme Court rulings for complex and involved cases. Several cases with which Dr. Bütz has been involved have required the Supreme Court's review, and these include work on desk reviews, complex custody situations involving multiple providers and detailed information about psychometric aspects of psychological assessments, as well as what has been increasingly referred to as Parental Alienation (note forthcoming manuscripts on the topic and related matters).

When sizing up Dr. Bütz's capacity to be of assistance in your case or the case of your client, it is suggested to gauge what has been described above and across this website and make knowledgeable comparisons. It is entirely appropriate to ask what licensing and practice standards a provider has and will be using to make an assessment, consultation, and/or intervention or treatment. If the provider cannot offer a reasonable explanation or direct you or your client to similar licensing and national standards such as those described above, that absence should raise some concerns.

There Needs to be Questions!

Effective assessment or consultation starts with questions, clarifying questionss, not answers. Before jumping headlong into these services, there are several questions that need to be asked to understand the functions, needs and wishes of those seeking services.

  • What is the nature of the service requested should be the first question when it comes to this kind of work.  Stated another way, what is the outcome being sought?
  • What is envisioned at the end of this process, is this a one time involvement, or, is the assessment or consultation seen as part of an ongoing effort set of services?
  • What degree of support does the assessment or consultation have and from whom?
  • What degree of resources will be committed to the assessment or consultation; both initially and in an ongoing fashion once the services are underway?

Informed Consent

Each recipient of an assessment or consultation service should know what to expect from the process, a time-line for how long the service is estimated to last and what the potential results will be - good, bad or otherwise. Informed consent outlines a variety of matters, but in essence it lays out the plan for services that all involved agree to at the outset. In our experience, however, there is always the risk of unexpected changes, changes within the larger environment, developments in the case, changes in the parties involved, leadership, or support that may compromise or complicate the assessment or consultation. In other words, factors that lay outside the consultant or evaluator’s control, but may impact the work being done.

Psychological Assessments and Consultations

What is being assessed or consulted upon, what is the question that is being asked? The first step of any good assessment or consultation, is to clarify what is called the "referral question" so that everyone knows what the purpose of the assessment or consultation actually is...  The average person would be surprised at how often a client comes in for one of these services, and when asked "Why are you here?" - they don't know.

So, this needs to be addressed right up front, and here at Aspen Practice, P.C. will be clarified at the very beginning of the assessment or consultation process as part of the informed consent process.

While consultations are often a starting place that provides direction or ongoing interacitons, thorough assessments as events are key to any events that may follow, a vareity of forensic dispositions, therapuetic work, hiring or an individual's work future. It follows that if there is not a clear conceptualization of the case; the case will be centered on the wrong issues or missing the mark. 

Consultations are a starting place or part of an ongoing process, and so the length and detail of these may vary. On the other hand, the majority of assessment reports completed at Aspen Practice, P.C. are about fifteen pages in length, and are shorter or longer depending on the complexity of the case.  Each assessment includes, at minimum, the following elements, dependent on the referral question.

  • Referral Question
  • Instruments Administered
  • Collateral Data
  • Current Medications
  • Social History (Medical and Psychiatry/Psychological History)
  • Intellectual, Cognitive and Academic Abilities
  • Personality Assessment
  • Substance Abuse Assessment
  • Mental Status Interview
  • Diagnostic Impressions
  • Recommendations

All assessment will provide a diagnosis or no diagnosis, a rationale and recommendations.  All clients are also offered a Results Session based on who holds priviledge to assure that they understand the findings, and the rationale for findings as well as handle any questions associated with the assessment.