What is forensic psychology?
Forensic psychology is the application of psychology to the legal system. Specifically, forensic psychologists are called upon to apply psychological principles, theory, research and data to answer legal questions.
What is a forensic assessment?
Forensic assessment is used when a psychologist is hired to answer a specific legal question (i.e. competency, insanity, etc.). Depending on the specific question, the psychologist will conduct a clinical interview, collateral interviews (e.g. with witnesses, family, friends, attorneys, police officers, etc.), review records (i.e. medical, psychological, criminal, school, etc.), administer psychological tests, and form an opinion to answer the legal question.
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How is forensic assessment different from clinicial assessment?
Forensic assessment is not the same as clinical (or therapeutic) assessment. When a client is referred for clinical assessment, he or she is often posing their own questions regarding treatment, diagnosis, progress, etc. In forensic evaluations, the client can be court ordered or referred by their attorney to assist in their legal case. Therefore, forensic assessment can sometimes create an adversarial relationship between the psychologist and client, as opposed to a therapeutic one. Other differences include:
When might a forensic evaluation be necessary?
Clients are referred for a forensic evaluation when their attorney believes it may be beneficial to their legal case or when the judge orders someone to participate in such an evaluation. Some common legal questions that forensic psychologists are required to answer are:
Child Custody Evaluations, Visitation Risk Assessments, Grandparent Visitation Evaluations, Mediation of Parental Conflicts about Children, Child Abuse Evaluations, Adoption Readiness Evaluations, Development of Family Reunification Plans, and Evaluations to Assess Termination of Parental Rights.
Psychotherapy and counseling to families referred by the court:
Personal Injury Evaluations, IME Second Opinion Evaluations, Assessment of Emotional Factors in Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, Worker's Compensation Evaluations, Civil Competency Evaluations, and Psychological Autopsies.
In Civil Court cases, psychologists also provide psychotherapy and counseling to individuals for the following problems:
Evaluations of Juveniles accused of criminal acts, Juvenile Pre-sentencing Evaluations, Juvenile Probation Evaluations, Juvenile Waiver Evaluations, Evaluating the Credibility of Child Witnesses, Assessment of Juvenile and Adult Sexual Offenders, Competency and Diminished Capacity Evaluations, and Adult Pre-sentencing Evaluations.
Psychologists also provide counseling and psychotherapy services to individuals involved with the Criminal Court. The issues addressed include: