Trauma and Mental Disability Law

Trauma and Mental Disability Law


20 Hours | 20 CEs (CEUs)

Program Description

This self-paced training program on Trauma and Mental Disability Law is presented by Professors Michael Perlin and Heather Ellis Cucolo.

This course considers how issues involving trauma-induced mental disabilities (PTSD as an example) are dealt with in both civil and criminal courts and other legal areas within the community.

The material is of primary interest to legal practitioners, mental health clinicians, forensic psychologists and other forensic mental health professionals, and disability advocates. The course includes a review of the policy and legal developments of a wide range of issues involving certain marginalized groups and populations, such as:

    • children,
    • veterans,
    • those discharged from psychiatric institutions,
    • survivors of domestic abuse,
    • forensic patients, and
    • prison inmates.

The course discusses how we treat trauma-related disabilities in civil and criminal courts, the role of trauma in the legal treatment of people with mental disabilities, the relationship between trauma and disability reduction, and the relationship between stigma and trauma. In addition, the course contextualizes all of these issues through the framework of therapeutic jurisprudence and offers various therapeutic points of intervention geared towards shifting the relationship between law, trauma, and people with mental disabilities.

The fee for this training program is $500 and includes all materials. 

Intended Audience

This training is relevant for attorneys, social workers, clinicians, health care workers, and disability rights advocates that work with trauma and the mental disability law field.  This training program is appropriate for beginner, intermediate, and advanced level clinicians.

Upon completion of this course, participants should be able to:


  • Describe the treatment of trauma-related disabilities in civil and criminal courts;
  • Describe the role of trauma in the legal treatment of people with mental disabilities;
  • Describe the relationship between trauma and disability subordination;
  • Describe how trauma relates to issues of gender, race, youth & violence;
  • Describe the relationship between trauma and issues of sanism and pretextuality;
  • Describe therapeutic jurisprudence concepts to all the underlying issues
  • About Professors Cucolo and Perlin

    Heather Ellis Cucolo is an adjunct professor in New York Law School’s online mental disability law program, has served as Acting Director of that program, and has contributed to the development of courses within the program as well as assisted in collaboration with Asia-Pacific partners to foster international distance learning. Professor Cucolo currently teaches the Americans with Disabilities Act, Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Mental Disability Law and Sex Offenders to both law students, clinicians and other professionals.
    Cucolo has spoke at the United Nations, advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in the Asia Pacific region and has advised international attorneys on the benefits and implications of the ADA. Cucolo has published and lectured –both domestically and internationally — in the areas of mental disability law, criminal law and sex offender law. Her most recent collaboration involved expanding Michael L. Perlin’s five-volume MENTAL DISABILITY LAW: CIVIL AND CRIMINAL (2d ed.) (Lexis-Nexis, 1998-2002) into a seven-volume third edition (forthcoming 2016). As part of her ongoing advocacy as an attorney, she has represented individuals facing civil commitment under both The New Jersey Mental Hygiene Law and the New Jersey’s Sexually Violent Predators Act. During her full-time position with the New Jersey Public Defender’s office (05-10),Cucolo handled over 300 cases at trial and argued numerous appeals in the New Jersey appellate court – many of which have been published. Cucolo has been recognized as one of the premiere experts in sexual violent predator law and has counseled attorneys, judges and clinicians on law and procedure in civil commitment proceedings and issues involving persons suffering from a mental disability or illness within the criminal justice system.
    Michael L. Perlin is Professor of Law Emeritus at New York Law School (NYLS), founding director of NYLS’s Online Mental Disability Law Program, and founding director of NYLS’s International Mental Disability Law Reform Project in its Justice Action Center. He is also the co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates. He has written 31 books and nearly 300 articles on all aspects of mental disability law, many of which deal with the overlap between mental disability law and criminal law and procedure. His most recent books are MENTAL DISABILITY AND THE DEATH PENALTY: THE SHAME OF THE STATES (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), A PRESCRIPTION FOR DIGNITY: RETHINKING CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND MENTAL DISABILITY LAW (Ashgate, 2013), SEXUALITY, DISABILITY AND THE LAW: BEYOND THE LAST FRONTIER? (with Alison J. Lynch, Esq.) (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016), and Shaming the Constitution: The Detrimental Results of Sexual Violent Predator Legislation (with Prof. Cucolo) (Temple University Press 2017) . The third edition of his multi-volume treatise, MENTAL DISABILITY LAW: CIVIL AND CRIMINAL (Lexis-Nexis Press), 1998-2002), universally seen as the standard text in the area, was published in 2016 (this edition co-authored with Prof. Cucolo) , and is updated yearly. The third edition of his casebook, Mental Disability Law: Cases and Materials (Carolina Academic Press) (co-authored with Ms. Lynch and Prof. Cucolo, was published earlier in 2017. An earlier book, THE JURISPRUDENCE OF THE INSANITY DEFENSE (Carolina Academic Press, 1995) won the Manfred Guttmacher award of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law as the best book published that year. He has been named an Honorary Lifetime President of the new International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence.
    Before becoming a professor, Perlin was the Deputy Public Defender in charge of the Mercer County Trial Region in New Jersey, and, for eight years, was the director of the Division of Mental Health Advocacy in the NJ Department of the Public Advocate. He has represented thousands of persons with mental disabilities in individual and class actions, and has represented criminal defendants at every level from police court to the US Supreme Court (second-seating Strickland v. Washington, and representing amicus in Ake v. Oklahoma, and Colorado v. Connelly). He directed the online mental disability law program at New York Law School from 2000 to 2014, and through that program, offered 13 courses to lawyers, mental health professionals, and disability advocates. Through this program, he has also taught mental disability law courses in Japan, Nicaragua, Finland, Israel, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Sweden. He has done extensive work in China with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law—Asia office where he has conducted “Training of Trainers” workshops in Xi’an, China to teach experienced death penalty defense lawyers how to train inexperienced lawyers, employing the online distance learning methodologies used in the NYLS online program. He has also done advocacy work on behalf of persons with disabilities on every continent. In the fall semester of 2012, he served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist, teaching and consulting at the Islamic University of Jogjakarta, Indonesia. Four years earlier, also as part of the Fulbright designation, he taught in the Global Law Program at Haifa. Last year, he was elected to be co-chair of the Disability Rights Interest Group of the American.

    Week 1: Understanding Trauma | Introduction; roadmap; overview contaminating factors.

    Week 2: Trauma & Mental Illness | Generation of trauma and mental illness; Interplay of law, policy & trauma in mental disability law

    Week 3: Civil Commitment and Institutionalization | Fourth Amendment issues; lethal force; possible solutions (37-57)

    Week 4: Professional Roles in the Process that Contribute to Trauma | Evaluations; screening; consumers’ perspective; the civil commitment hearing; role of counsel; role of expert witnesses

    Week 5: Problem Solving Courts | How “ordinary” courts traumatize; how problem-solving courts can minimize trauma

    Week 6: Forensic mental health law, I | Significance of PTSD; myths and realities; the incompetency process

    Week 7: Forensic mental health law, II | The insanity defense; penal confinement; re-entry; death penalty

    Week 8: Stigma and Anti-discrimination law | The Americans with Disabilities Act; psychiatric disability and effect of stigma and trauma

    Week 9: International human rights law | Significance of international human rights law in this context; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

    Week 10: Therapeutic Jurisprudence | What is therapeutic jurisprudence; how it can be used as a tool to mitigate the effects of trauma

    “Professors Perlin and Cucolo are engaging and very knowledgeable in mental disability law.”

    “This course offers detailed case examples and relevant research in all aspects of trauma and disability law.”

    “The supplemental materials and readings were very helpful in integrating the course content and case examples!”

    Continuing Education Credit

    This Distance Learning Course is a Home Study Training Program. To earn CEs you are required to complete all course materials, quizzes, and the evaluation. No partial credit is available. A score of 70% is required to proceed; you will be able to re-take any quiz on which you score less than 70%. Participants will earn 20 CE hours upon completion of these requirements. Each participant will be able to download and print the CE certificate upon completion of the final evaluation.

    Board Approvals: APA, ASWB, CPA, NBCC. Click here for state and other regional board approvals.

    Your satisfaction with our programs, products and services is important to us; however, because these are immediately made available to you upon registration and payment, we do not issue refunds. Should you find that a particular program, product or service is not the right fit for you, we will assist you in crediting your registration towards another one of our offerings that might better suit you.

    We specialize in training groups — from a handful to hundreds — and are happy to contact you to discuss your group training needs.

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