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Media Advisory/Press Release

Dr. Robin Deutsch to Direct New Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law at Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology

Center will train judges, lawyers, court personnel, child welfare professionals and mental health providers

June 15, 2011–Boston (West Roxbury), MA–“My hope is that this new center will be a repository for the latest knowledge and a center of excellence for training legal and mental health professionals involved with families and children in the legal system,” says Dr. Robin Deutsch, a nationally renowned forensic, child and family psychologist. Deutsch will launch a new Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) in West Roxbury this September. MSPP officials believe that the center will be the first of its kind in the nation.

“An example of the Center’s work might be to design conferences to give judges the latest thinking about interventions and options to help them render the wisest decisions in their courtrooms,” says Deutsch, adding that families and children make their way into the courts for a variety of reasons, among them high conflict divorces, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, and child maltreatment. “Mediators. lawyers and court psychologists and other court personnel, can all benefit from keeping abreast of psychological research concerning these issues,” she says. In addition to directing the center, she will also help to develop a new Child/Family Concentration within MSPP’s clinical doctoral program and will teach core courses in that doctoral program and its Forensic Concentration as well as present within MSPP’s continuing education programs. Deutsch is currently the Director of Forensic Services of the Children and the Law Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. In that role, she has evaluated hundreds of custody and other legal cases involving families and has advised the courts in developing plans for families to help protect children and guide parents. “My focus has always been on applying child development research to the issues being addressed by the courts,” says Deutsch.

In addition to providing these services and acting as an expert witness, Deutsch also trains psychiatry residents, postdoctoral and advanced fellows in psychology, and clinical doctoral program interns from MSPP in this kind of work. She is also a nationally regarded professional, particularly for her work in the areas of high-conflict divorce and strategies for parenting adolescents.

Deutsch hopes the new MSPP Center will offer her an even more comprehensive challenge. “I see the Center as a forum for sharing ideas and putting all the pieces together so that mental health clinicians, child-serving professionals in child welfare and juvenile justice, legal professionals, mediators and the courts can deal more effectively and compassionately with families that are under stress,” she says, adding that she intends to engage a coalition of leaders, both clinical and legal, to advance and disseminate knowledge about the best approaches and practices. She also believes an essential aspect of fulfilling the Center’s mission will entail working closely with several other centers of excellence at MSPP -- the Center for Families and Divorce and the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development.

One concept that Deutsch hopes to explore more fully as the Center gets underway is “prevention.” “Courts see families after they get into trouble,” she says. “I want to help families begin early to learn how to resolve conflicts, as early as when they are expecting their first child. This is a good time for parents to become aware of where the areas of disagreement might be and how to develop skills now, even before the baby is born,” she says.

According to Dr. Robert Kinscherff, Director of Forensic Studies at MSPP, who played a major role in recruiting Deutsch, “We are very fortunate that she has decided to join and guide us. Her presence here will deepen our understanding of the impact that the legal system can and should have on families and children in this society. We are truly delighted that she will be heading up this effort.”

Deutsch began her career as an elementary school teacher and then as an administrator of a K-12 program for gifted and talented children after earning her master’s in counseling from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She then earned her doctorate in counseling psychology at the University of Wisconsin and completed her clinical internship at Judge Baker Children’s Center and Children’s Hospital, Her focus upon forensic psychology practice with children and families was developed during her postdoctoral work at the Children and the Law Program at Judge Baker Children’s Center and the Boston Juvenile Court Clinic. Deutsch then joined the staff at the Children and the Law Program, remaining with the program when it moved to Massachusetts General Hospital where she has been a senior leader.

For Deutsch and Kinscherff, her arrival at MSPP is something of a reunion since their collaborations date back to a time when they were both at the Judge Baker Children’s Center and served in the Children and the Law Program at the Center and then at MGH. Kinscherff commented, “I anticipate her arrival at MSPP as both a friend and a colleague of many years. Her extraordinary talent, skill and enthusiasm will undoubtedly move MSPP to national recognition in multidisciplinary professional education, effective collaboration and thoughtful scholarship in areas involving children, families and the law.”

Deutsch, the co-author of 7 Things Your Teenager Can’t Tell You (and How to Talk About Them Anyway), is the past president of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and of its Massachusetts’ chapter. She was also a member of the AFCC Task Force that developed Guidelines for Parenting Coordination (2005), on the American Psychological Association task force that developed Guidelines for Parenting Coordination for psychologists (2011), and on the Massachusetts task force that wrote “Planning for Shared Parenting: a Guide for Parents Living Apart.”

She is currently a co-chair of the AFCC Task Force on Child Custody Consultation. She is the former chair of the American Psychological Association Ethics Committee (2007) as well as one of the three co-founders of Overcoming Barriers Camp for families where children have lost a relationship with one of their parents due to family conflict. She is frequently invited to provide educational and scientific presentations to judges, lawyers, and mental health professionals in the United States, Canada, and Sweden. She is a 2006 recipient of the American Psychological Association Karl F. Heiser Presidential Award for Advocacy and a 2009 recipient of an appreciation award from the APA Practice Directorate.

About MSPP—Founded in 1974, MSPP has created and offered a unique approach to doctoral training for psychologists focusing on the immediate integration of clinical experience with academic studies. The school’s mission is to bring benefits of psychological training to other areas of American society, including schools, the workplace and the courts.

Updated 6/16/11

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