Mental Health Counselors' Perceived Challenges When Working With Legally Mandated Adult Clients




Cruz, Tatiana

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This study aimed to investigate mental health counselors' perspectives on the challenges associated with working with legally mandated adult clients, as well as their perceptions of their preparedness to work with this population upon completing their mental health training program. The literature revealed that mental health counselors working with legally mandated adult populations occupy multiple roles and face conflicting expectations between providing support and asserting authority, which complicates their ability to deliver ethical and comprehensive counseling. Additionally, legally mandated clients have high rates of violence, experience feelings of powerlessness, and encounter numerous systemic barriers as part of their involvement with the criminal justice system. Despite the significant concerns regarding how these factors impact counseling for both the counselor and client, limited research has explored this area. Utilizing a transcendental phenomenological approach within a framework of relational cultural theory, I conducted interviews with 10 participants. Through data analysis, four themes emerged: (a) balancing contradictory expectations and additional roles, (b) systemic barriers, (c) perceptions of client and rehabilitation worthiness, and (d) training and education. These findings indicate that mental health counselors encounter numerous challenges when working with legally mandated adult clients, often experiencing a lack of preparation from their counselor training programs. Subsequently, the study discusses these themes in detail, along with their implications for counselors and counselor educators. Lastly, the study concludes with an examination of the limitations and recommendations for future research.



community supervision, court mandated, court ordered, legally mandated, Mental health