No discussion of psychological roles would be complete without consideration of the esteem (or lack thereof) in which patients, clients, colleagues, and the public at large hold psychologists. While there has been considerable debate concerning the reliability and/or validity of methods employed in obtaining such data (Williams and Wilkinson, 1995), results of surveys lead one inexorably to the conclusion that psychologists are in significant need of outreach to the general populace (Obholzer, 1988). This appears to apply not only to problematically divergent values, but also, perhaps ironically, to mutually stigmatizing views of persons with mental illness and related disabilities (Chaplin, 2000; Leong and Zachar, 1999).
Lay perceptions of psychologists per se are often clouded by an inability—or disinclination—to distinguish between different types of mental health providers (Farberman, 1997). Studies conducted over the course of the last four decades (Von Sydow and Reimer, 1998), however, have consistently noted public image problems for psychologists, not the least of which has been the recently identified perception that psychotherapy and counseling have been characterized by many respondents as only moderately effective (Richardson and Handal, 1995).
In order to counter any negative (or interferingly positive, even dependent) perceptions on the part of victims, offenders, and other related parties, it remains important to the success of the mediation process—as well as ethically indicated from an informed consent perspective (Beahrs, 2001; Davies, 2001; Hamilton, 1983; Wirshing et al.,
1998)—to identify the specific background of each mediator. At the same time, a vital aspect of the initial engagement process will be a thorough explanation of the distinct functions of each actor in question, irrespective of overarching professional identities, in every mediation exercise.
These considerations lead to the conclusion that psychological roles may have a considerably varied effect upon just outcomes for Restorative Justice participants. Tailored, context-sensitive presentation and boundary construction will considerably influence these results.
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