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Please note that as of the summer of 2020, NBFE discontinued its newsletter, but we continue to post newsworthy items here on our news page.  To view the archived newsletters page, click here.

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  • 22 Jul 2016 1:05 PM | Anonymous

    New Credential to Open (Courtroom) Doors for Counselors



    SEPTEMBER 2004

    ACA, NBFE partnership creates opportunities for counselors to provide forensic evaluation, testimony

    Psychological forensic evaluations have long fallen under the domain of psychiatrists and psychologists, and credentialing bodies have catered to these professionals in providing the necessary training and certification. As a result, more than 200,000 licensed mental health professionals (excluding psychiatrists/psychologists) in the United States have been virtually shut out of this interesting and potentially quite profitable niche of the mental health field.

    Recognizing this, the American Counseling Association and the National Board of Forensic Evaluators have formed a partnership to provide a credible and professionally recognized forensic training/certification process for licensed counselors and other mental health professionals.

    "NBFE was officially established in 2003 and originated from a specialty certification training program developed by licensed mental health professionals, physicians and practicing family attorneys," said Norman Hoffman, a licensed marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, certified assessor for the Florida State Department of Children and Families, and president of NBFE's advisory board.

    Other board members include licensed marriage and family therapists, attorneys, licensed mental health counselors, licensed social workers, licensed psychologists, certified assessors by the Department of Children and Families, clergy, physicians and certified hypnotherapists.

    NBFE purpose, Hoffman said, is to enhance skills of licensed mental health professionals who, traditionally, have not been recognized in the forensic arena by the public or private sector.

    "This really is going to be a growing field for counselors," he said. "Especially because, more and more, the mental health field is diminishing as HMOs require more work for less money by practitioners."

    Mental health professionals in the forensic arena don't deal with insurance companies, Hoffman said, noting that the field can be "quite lucrative." What's more, since he entered the forensic arena, he has seen the scope of his practice expand exponentially and finds his work more fulfilling - so much so that he now devotes 90 percent of his time to forensic work.

    "The legal community will also be delighted by the addition of counselors to the pool of potential forensic evaluators," Hoffman said. "Lawyers are looking desperately for people who can offer expert psychological testimony."

    Until now, that pool has been relatively limited. Hoffman noted that the American Board of Forensic Psychology, established in 1978, restricts its membership candidates to those with doctoral degrees in

    psychology accredited by the American Psychological Association, Canadian Psychological Association or other programs meeting designated criteria specific to psychologists.

    Similarly, he said, in order to become a forensic psychiatrist, one must first become a board certified psychiatrist, graduate from medical school, perform a year-long internship and meet other closely related regulations that are governed by criteria specific to psychiatry.

    Before the establishment of NBFE, according to Hoffman, the only way for counseling professionals to obtain forensic credentials was through suspect organizations "that basically would credential anybody."

    As a testament to the rigors of NBFE's credentialing process, ACA recently went public with its endorsement of the program and has formed a partnership with the group. One of the benefits of this arrangement is that ACA members will receive a reduced rate on the cost of the training/certification process.

    ACA members are eligible for a 40 percent discount when applying for NBFE credentials as a Forensic Psychological Evaluator. This represents a savings of $320 off the cost of the application and written and oral exams. In addition, for those members who become NBFE credentialed as a Forensic Psychological Evaluator, ACA will grant 15 CEUs (15 contact hours) toward license and/or certification renewal.

    "We are really excited about this partnership," said David Kaplan, associate executive director for professional affairs at ACA. "It opens up a whole new niche for professional counselors."

    "Testifying in court as an expert witness has, until now, been the realm of the psychologist and psychiatrist," Kaplan continued. "But with the excellent training opportunities and credentialing process offered by NBFE, counselors will also be able to provide this service."

    "We view this as one more valuable service we can offer our membership," Kaplan added "ACA members can become certified to offer this new type of service while saving nearly three times the cost of their annual membership."

    "The partnership with NBFE gives ACA members one more opportunity to specialize and pursue an alternative interest," said Samuel Gladding, ACA president. "And in this current climate of legal proceedings many of which surround issues related to counseling, "this specialized' training will enhance both the skills and reputation of counseling professionals."

    According to Hoffman, in order to attain NBFE board certification as a Forensic Psychological Evaluator, ACA members and other applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements: a completed application and processing fee; a minimum of a state license/certification to practice mental health counseling, marriage and family counseling, social work, or a related license or certificate approved by the state's licensing board to practice psychotherapy; and a minimum of three years of post-licensed/certified experience.

    Applicants must also have completed a minimum of 40 hours of substantiated documentation in classes, workshops, seminars, supervision, published professional works, etc., focusing on forensic psychological assessment, sexual offenders, domestic violence, expert witness, ethical issues, fan1ily law, introduction to essentials of forensic assessment, child custody evaluations, assessment in personal injury, malingering, competency to stand trial, civil comn1itment, juvenile justice and substance abuse.

    Hoffman noted that experience in providing expert testimony, depositions, divorce and fan1ily mediation, competency evaluations will be considered, if there is a verifiable case number and court reference accompanying the application.

    In addition, those seeking certification must have three professional references who can validate the their ethical and moral standards as well as pertinent clinical skills and abilities.

    Upon meeting these qualifications, a written examination will be required to assess the depth and breadth of the candidate's forensic knowledge.

    Upon candidacy eligibility and payment of examination fees, a comprehensive study guide will be provided by NBFE. A practice sample review and oral examination will complete the certification process.

    In addition to establishing the partnership with NBFE that qualifies ACA members for the discount, Hoffman noted that ACA has recognized and approved NBFE's workshops and home studies for its members.

    NBFE is part of the Counseling and Psychotherapy Center (CPC), which is approved by the Board of Clinical Social Work Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling as a provider of continuing education. As such, Hoffman said, "We maintain the highest level of expertise and professionalism."

    The senior clinicians at CPC researched and developed all program materials, according to Hoffman. He noted that CPC ensures the integrity of the programs and considered the level of the needs of the target audience in developing appropriate educational goals and learning objectives. The courses of study meet the high-quality standards required for continuing education for clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists and professional counselors.

    CPC clinicians have provided face-to-face seminars and workshops for years, Hoffman said, but they are now focused on bringing the training to the practitioners. "While CPC will maintain the faculty and resources necessary to assist its students in developing and enhancing their capabilities, skills and effectiveness in their chosen professions, we have also made it possible, through homestudy, to serve the continuing educational needs of the licensed working professionals," he said. In addition, Kaplan noted that arrangements are underway for NBFE to offer a two-day workshop prior to the ACA convention in Atlanta this coming April. ACA members who participate will be awarded 15 contact hours. A written exam will be offered on the second day.

    Hoffman admits that the field of forensics is not for everyone. He anticipates that between 5 and 10 percent of counseling professionals might have an interest in going to court. "It takes a real 'Type A; personality," he said. "You've got to have an interest in how the legal system meshes with the mental health profession and enough control of your ego that you are not so tied to one way of looking at things."

    "Good verbal skills are also essential," Hoffman added. "You're performing (for) a whole new audience, and you must be able to articulate clear thoughts without resorting to a lot of psychobabble."

    Another big difference between forensic and more traditional mental health practice is the limited scope of the evaluations. "There is a limit on the involvement with the individual," Hoffman said.

    "For the purposes of the court, you are there to extract as much psychological information as possible. So while you use the same counseling skills (that you have always used) to make that connection, once you have gathered enough information to make an evaluation, your involvement is over."

    Because of this, Hoffman said, it's much less draining on the counselor particularly those who have been prone to what he terms "compassion fatigue."

    "Counselors, especially those in private practice, are always looking for new ways to market their services as well as to round out their practices," Kaplan said. For those who meet the criteria, he said, forensic work could be just the ticket for achieving this.

    "Forensics is still very new to most. ACA members," noted Gladding. "But this partnership may create an interest. It really opens up a door for the counseling profession."

    Counselors who are interested in learning more about becoming a forensic evaluator can go the NBFE website at or contact Hoffman via e-mail at

  • 22 Jul 2016 12:57 PM | Anonymous

    Shake-Up Inside Forensic Credentialing Org

    The nation’s largest forensic expert college will sell its forensic accounting division, following a series of investigations by ProPublica and Frontline.

    by Leah Bartos, Special to ProPublica April 11, 2014, 12:22 p.m. 

    There's been a major shake-up in one of the largest organizations that certifies forensic experts.

    The group, the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI), quietly put up for sale its forensic accounting division — one of its most prominent programs — prompting the unanimous resignation of that division's entire advisory board. The volunteer accounting board oversaw ACFEI's certification program for experts in financial investigations.

    The upheaval at ACFEI comes in the wake of a series of reports that have raised questions about the credibility of the organization's certification programs, notably the FRONTLINE/ProPublica joint investigation, The Real CSI, which examined the organization's rigor in certifying forensic experts.

    Three of the board members who resigned say their efforts to bolster their division's credibility were being stymied.

    "I don't think we were getting the support that we needed to carry out our duties. And from an ethical standpoint, the right thing to do is leave your position when you can't do what you're basically hired to do," said Michael Kessler, a past chair of the accounting board and member of ACFEI since 1994. Kessler and two other board members said they were never consulted about the sale and were left with no other choice but to resign in protest.

    In a statement, ACFEI said it planned to spin off the forensic accounting program for reasons "related to organizational efficiency" and pledged to only sell it to a buyer that would maintain rigorous credentialing standards.

    "The company can only develop excellence in so many directions at the same timeand is transferring ownership of the credential to accounting professionals to further strengthen it," the statement said.

    ACFEI offers certification courses in various other aspects of forensics, including nursing, social work and criminal investigation, and the group has also established related associations offering coursework in other disciplines, including psychotherapy and integrative medicine. One of the associations, the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security, has garnered support from the U.S. Navy in recent years, which has paid more than $12 million for more than 10,000 sailors to obtain certifications from the ACFEI-affiliate since 2008.

    It appears that troubles between ACFEI and the accounting division had been building for some time.

    Last year, board members say they were surprised to learn that ACFEI had lost the rights to use a longstanding aspect of its brand, the acronym "Cr.FA" — which signifies Certified Forensic Accountant — as the result of a trademark lawsuit.

    According to documents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, ACFEI had failed to actively defend its ownership of the title, and essentially let it slip away.

    After discovering the loss of the trademark six months after the fact, board members rushed to advise hundreds of forensic accountants around the country to remove the acronym from resumes and business cards. ACFEI did not respond to FRONTLINE's repeated requests for comment on the trademark litigation.

    As FRONTLINE and ProPublica reported in The Real CSI, there are no national standards for forensic experts. Credentials such as the ones offered by ACFEI are voluntary, but they are often relied upon as a shortcut to assess the credibility of an expert witness at trial.

    "It's up to the judge whether a witness is qualified as an expert — which is true —but when you take a look at the dockets, they're jammed," said Suzanne Hillman, a CPA who often testifies in financial fraud cases in the Washington, D.C. area. "You see certification, it gives you a little bit of a feeling of comfort."

    Hillman said she sought ACFEI's Certified Forensic Accountant credential because, "I knew I had a wealth of experience and was seeking to add the credential that would, in essence, summarize that quickly." Hillman also joined ACFEI's forensic accounting board, but resigned at the end of 2013, similarly disillusioned with the organization.

    Hillman has since removed Certified Forensic Accountant from her title.

    She believes the lack of regulation on certifying experts damages the entire justice system. "To the judges, jurors and lawyers, I don't think the message has totally gotten out to them that there's problems with some of these credentials," Hillman said.

    Jeannette Koger, vice president of member specialization and credentialing for the American Institute of CPAs said the lax standards also make it harder for people to know the quality of the experts they are hiring, often at a high price.

    "This causes confusion in the marketplace and can potentially cause consumers great harm," Koger said in an email. "If they receive unqualified or poorly qualified representation their expert can be challenged in the courtroom, resulting in an adverse judgment."

  • 22 Jul 2016 12:52 PM | Anonymous

    January 09, 2007

    Forensic Examiner in Corey Maye Trial Wasn't Board Certified

    From Hit and Run:

    Hayne testified at Maye’s trial that he is “board certified” in forensic pathology, but he isn’t certified by the American Board of Pathology, the only organization recognized by the National Association of Medical Examiners and the American Board of Medical Specialties as capable of certifying forensic pathologists. According to depositions from other cases, Hayne failed the American Board of Pathology exams when he left halfway through, deeming the questions “absurd.” Instead, his C.V. indicates that he’s certified by two organizations, one of which (the American Board of Forensic Pathology) isn’t recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The other (the American Academy of Forensic Examiners) doesn’t seem to exist. Judging from his testimony in other depositions, its likely Hayne meant to list the American College of Forensic Examiners. According to Hayne, the group certified him through the mail based on “life experience,” with no examination at all. Several forensics experts described the American College of Forensic Examiners to me as a “pay your money, get your certification” organization. A February 2000 article in the American Bar Association Journal makes similar allegations, with one psychologist who was certified through the group saying, "Everything was negotiable—for a fee.”

    Reason has a summary of Maye's case. Police mistakenly knocked down Maye's door in a bungled search for a drug dealer who lived in am adjacent part of the duplex. Maye, not realizing it was police knocking down his door, shot and killed one of the officers. He was subsequently convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death, though his latest appeal removed him from death row.

    It was a police foul up that put them in Maye's house that night, and as people have noted, if officers had accidentally killed Maye it's unlikely any of them would have gone to prison, much less death row. Wikipedia has more.

  • 22 Jul 2016 12:44 PM | Anonymous

    ‘Bad’ kids not always the parents’ fault, author says

    Some children are more likely than others to have problems

    By Tom Holton

    Staff writer – Hometown News Friday, March 23, 2007

    ORMOND BEACH – Not all children are well behaved, adorable and loving, says Ormond Beach resident and clinical therapist Norman E. Hoffman, Ph.D. in his book, “Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents.”

    Some offspring can be unusually thoughtless, cruel and manipulative, he says.

    Others can be charming experts at wheeling, dealing and exploiting their well-intentioned parents without any sense of guilt.

    And, many “problem” children are “uncaring,” lacking a sense of remorse for their perceived misconduct and misbehavior, Hoffman writes in the preface to the recently published 157-page paperback.

    The author, who has a full-time family therapy practice in Ormond and Daytona Beach, said he wrote the book to present a better understanding of “antisocial” behavior in children.

    The term “bad” in the title refers to children with varying degrees of difficult behavior. Throughout the book, the author refers to youngsters with specific behavioral challenges as “uncaring” children.

    Hoffman also wastes no time in informing readers he doesn’t buy the popular belief, “There are no bad children, only bad parents.”

    “The trend in the United States has been to view children as basically good entities whose behavior is molded from a blueprint drawn by the architects of the family: the parents,” Hoffman writes. “In the past, when a child misbehaved we looked at the parents as the culprits.”

    In the book, Hoffman, who earned doctorates in pastoral psychology and human service counseling, provides what he calls a “survival manual for parents with difficult children.”

    “We have been taught to think that we are not providing proper care and love, that we lack listening skills and that our actions have possibly damaged or retarded our children’s normal development,” he writes.

    Those beliefs often result in parents feeling guilt and a sense of hopelessness in dealing with their unresponsive children, the author says.

    The author believes children often feel empowered by their parents’ extensive efforts to help them.

    “As long as children hold power positions in the family system, the youngsters maintain control over the atmosphere, directions, goals and plans of the family,” Hoffman said.

    A major breakdown occurs when parents are “reduced to pleading for their children to understand their feelings.”

    Instead of being sympathetic and caring, the children take advantage of the situation by shifting the blame to their frustrated parents and, at the same time, demand more freedom and control, Hoffman said.

    “These children are masters of fixing the blame on parents, siblings, teacher and peers,” he wrote.

    Hoffman introduces the readers to the Uncaring Child Syndrome” and “Uncaring Children,” both used interchangeably to characterize children who don’t bond and become “disconnected from their caretakers.”

    In Chapter 2, the author provides four profiles of how children project the uncaring child syndrome, including:

    *The chameleons: Capable of changing their dispositions and habits; they take on the personalities of others and copy their ideas and ideals.

    *The operators: Charming and ingratiating; experts at wheeling, dealing and conning parents and others; well-liked by their peers; relentlessly engage in deceptions for monetary gain.

    *The hellbenders: Take unnecessary risks and are accident-prone; accidents waiting to happen.

    *The transformers: Start out as the “good children,” but later becomes uncaring and disobedient.

    In the first two chapters, readers can get the impression that there’s no hope for their “uncaring child,” but, in the remaining seven chapters, the author guides frustrated parents through a series of helpful processes.

    “Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents,” can be purchased online at

    For further information about the Hoffman Institute, go online at:

    Norman E. Hoffman, Ph.D. of Ormond Beach, author of ‘Bad Children Can Happen to Good Parents,’ is a licensed marriage & family therapist and mental health counselor, as well as an accomplished jazz pianist. His first book, ‘Hear The Music! – A New Approach to Mental Health,’ followed his work at the nationally known Devereux Foundation in 1963, where he specialized as a music therapist for children.

  • 18 Jul 2016 7:36 PM | Dr. Aaron Norton (Administrator)

    Aaron Norton, a CFMHE and Executive Director of NBFE, was awarded "Mental Health Counselor of the Year" by the American Mental Health Counselors Association at last week's annual conference in New Orleans.

  • 03 Jun 2016 2:41 PM | Anonymous

    Forensic Mental Health Evaluations and the Fine Line Between Sanity and Insanity

    A New York Times piece last month discussed Delawarean Toby Lopez: described in the first line of that piece as a “supremely ordinary guy.”

    He was a car salesman in Wyoming, Delaware when – after a high school friend was killed in Afghanistan – began intense social media discussions with those who falsely claimed affiliation with the Islamic State terrorist organization.

    What started out as a few naïve conversations turned into an obsessive flurry of communication that led him to quit his job, contact the FBI, and ultimately end up in jail facing charges and with his sanity in question.

    He went through multiple mental health evaluations before finally being released, based on a third evaluation done by Dr. Kirk Heilbrun, a Drexel psychologist that deemed Lopez mentally competent.

    While Lopez no longer faces charges -- he says the incident and evaluations involved have left him with a tarnished reputation and difficulty finding work.

    Forensic mental health evaluations are quite different from diagnostic mental health evaluations.

    Dr. Kirk Heilbrun says while the process has been refined over the years, there’s still room for improvement.

    “It’s just a question of - for psychologists and psychiatrists - getting good at doing these kinds of evaluations and then for judges and attorney, recognizing that there are some who do it well, and some not so well and trying their best to get the ones that get the information that is best from the ones that do it well,” Heilbrun said

  • 02 Jun 2016 2:44 PM | Anonymous

    Psychologist Breaks Down What Incompetent Ruling Means

    The judge's decision that Jimmy Snuka is not competent to stand trial comes after expert testimony, mental health evaluations, testimony from Snuka himself as well as from his wife. Prosecutors wanted the judge to see things differently. 69 News sat down with Dr. Robert Gordon, an expert in forensic psychology, who says the issue of competency boils down to a simple principle. "Competency is understanding the procedures factually and rationally," Dr. Gordon said. Dr. Gordon also says, without expertise, it is difficult to detect whether the person in question is lying to avoid the charges, or is actually not competent to stand trial. He also says those who fake it, otherwise known as malingerers, are typically detectable to a seasoned professional. "Malingerers overdo it, they ascribe to too many symptoms that the real person wouldn't, or incongruent symptoms that don't go a long with the actual diagnosis," Dr. Gordon said. While it is over for now, there are still more hurdles for Snuka's attorneys to overcome. There's another hearing to evaluate any changes in Snuka's competency six months from now. Dr. Gordon says the outcome of that could depend on the reason Snuka has been deemed incompetent to stand trial. "[If the testing shows a psychosis], with the right medication and treatment, he could be rehabilitated and competent to stand trial," Dr. Gordon said. "If the neuro site testing shows brain damage, you can't restore those lost neurons and then he can't be rehabilitated and competent to stand trial." According to Snuka's attorney, after a year and a half the judge would have to dismiss the charges if there is no change in Snuka's competency.

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