Dr. Norman Hoffman, NBFEs Founder, quickly learned that, although he possessed years of experience and highly credible training in the court arena, he had to deal with the historic truth; the court placed little weight on those outside of being a psychologist or psychiatrist. Historically, only two mental health professions, psychiatry and psychology, were considered by the legal and mental health field, qualified to perform forensic mental health evaluations.
After years of facing the scrutiny of Voir Dire*, Dr. Hoffman took on his greatest challenge creating a credible-evidentiary based process, training and certifying eligible licensed professional counselors to testify in court as experts.
A Letter from Dr. Norman Hoffman, the Founder of NBFE, on NBFE's Roots
Upon reflecting on how the National Board of Forensic Evaluators was formed, I go back to my experience when I was asked to go to court on behalf of my patients as well as an expert. It was during the late 70s while practicing in Pennsylvania, I had my first experience testifying as a Fact witness. I thought I did fairly well providing the court details of my patient. However, it was when I was asked, by an attorney, to provide expert testimony, the pile-up occurred. The direct examination went well. During the cross-examination, I went into a psychodynamic dissertation that I thought went extremely well until I was asked, “Where is the cathexis located?” I replied, “What?” It was not until the attorney took me down a very deep rabbit hole that I began to recognize that I had little or no knowledge of what an expert was expected to know when presenting testimony. I was also aware that most licensed mental health professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists, had little training and sound experience in the forensic mental health arena.
I continued to supervise and write mental health evaluations in my role as Outpatient Service Director at the Hazelton-Nanticoke MH/MR Center in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. At the same time, I became deeply engrossed in developing familiarity and expertise in a venue in which I had little experience. I read and went to workshops. Having the good fortune of being acquainted with several family law and criminal attorneys, I soaked in everything they had to teach and mentor. Slowly, I began to obtain my court experience while utilizing the mentoring of sage advice.
It was not until 2003 that, sleepless and obsessed with the notion of committing my experience to pen, I hurriedly ran to my computer and began to write. However, while involved in promulgating my experience, I considered the possibility of developing a training and certification process for master’s degree licensees. It was obvious that only psychologists and psychiatrists had the recognition to conduct forensic evaluations. The roots of NBFE were born.
After many drafts, I was faced with the “how-to” get NBFE known to master’s degree licensees. I first contacted as many highly recognized professionals in the counseling field as well as attorneys, physicians, and other allied professionals. After acquiring over a dozen esteemed professionals as NBFE’s advisory board, I contacted Dr. Richard Stride to request his commitment as one of our board members. He graciously agreed. Dr. Valerie Watt agreed as well, and she is currently our Oral Examination Committee Chair.
It became clear that there were only two nationally known and recognized organizations in the counseling profession. I contacted the American Counseling Association (ACA) and was directed to Dr. David Kaplan. After many discussions and communications, I was invited to the ACA board meeting to address their full board. After meticulous vetting, NBFE and ACA joined as our first professional partner. This joyous event took place in 2004. Gilbert Robbins, III was NBFEs’ first certificated member in December 2004. NBFE and ACA had our first conjoined certification training in 2005 at the Omni Center in Georgia. We had 47 participants.
From 2008 until 2012, I pursued a professional partnership with the Florida Mental Health Counselors Association (FMHCA). In 2009, NBFE became a nonprofit public charity. Because of FMHCA’s internal turmoil and organizational issues, it was not until 2012 that an agreement was signed. That same year, the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and NBFE developed an agreement as professional partners.
From NBFE’s inception in 2003, and until 2016, our operating expenses were drained from my personal account. In 2016, we had an operating budget of around $6,000.00. NBFE was finally in the black. However, we were a “One-Man-Band.” I was dreadfully concerned about what would happen if I was “hit by a bus.” NBFE would terminate. While being treasurer of FMHCA from 2012, I became aware of Aaron Norton, a key member of the FMHCA board. He was a brilliant, dedicated member of the board, and a man of creative and encyclopedic ideas. In 2015, I asked Aaron if he would consider being NBFE’s executive director. He said that he was too busy with his doctorate program, board activities, private practice, and a plethora of professional activities related to his professional commitments. I was committed to getting him aboard. Unrelenting, I continued to pursue Aaron in the hope he would take the helm and continue NBFE’s mission to ensure its continued existence and development. After relentless pursuit, in August 2016 Aaron finally agreed to be NBFE’s Executive Director. NBFE had a diminishing budget, and we could not offer him a salary commensurate with our expectations. In spite of offering him small compensation, he agreed.
Since August 2016, NBFE’s productivity exponentially grew such that we could finally realize financial growth. NBFE was now able to expand our homestudies, “on demand” training programs, and many other certification training programs. I no longer had to reach into my pockets to salvage and rescue the existence of NBFE.
As NBFE realized professional growth and recognition, as well as financial growth, we began to require hours of work beyond the capacity of Aaron and our board. Valentino Travieso was acting as a volunteer for NBFE. With his work ethic and knowledge of our interworking, he agreed to become our Assistant Administrator. Now, with a highly efficient and dedicated work force, NBFE was on its way to become “the Gold Standard” in the Forensic Mental Health training and certification arena.
Today, NBFE is proudly partnered with 12 reputable national, state, and local mental health organizations in the United States. We have made ourselves the home for mental health professionals who wish to expand their knowledge and expertise in the forensic mental health arena. We have earned our reputation through quality training, professional advocacy, and or commitment to certifying not only psychologists and psychiatrists, but all licensed mental health professionals (e.g., clinical mental health counselors, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, psychiatric nurse practitioners) who have appropriate training and expertise.
Norman Hoffman, Ph.D., Ed.D., LMHC, LMFT, NCC, CFMHE, CCCE, CFBA
President and Founder of NBFE