What Is Forensic Psychology?
Most people have seen movies or television shows about crime and now most of those viewers are familiar with term “forensic evidence.” Forensic evidence at a crime scene is considered to be objective evidence evaluated and understood by a scientist, such as and then presented to legal officials and the legal system to evaluate and consider. Such crime scene evidence could involve items found at the scene. So that’s an example of criminal “forensics.” But what’s an example of psychology “forensics?”
Well, “forensic psychology” is simply “psychology” used in or related to legal matters; It’s the application of Clinical Psychology knowledge, practices and procedures to matters before the Court or other legal or judicial organization. Most commonly, “forensic” psychology is practiced in matters of divorce and custody, criminal responsibility, disability, competence and similar areas where a “third party” (an independent and impartial evaluator, like a judge or arbitrator) must evaluate evidence or data and make a decision or recommendation to resolve conflict between two or more parties.
How Assessments Can Help In Legal Matters
Sometimes, the question of a person’s psychological functioning becomes a matter that involves the legal system, including the Probate, District or Superior Courts. Such issues may involve competency, impact of drug or alcohol use or abuse, divorce claims, juvenile matters, CHINS, allegations of child or elder abuse, domestic violence, criminal arrested or other issues. Forensic psychology is the practice of clinical psychology in the legal arena.
Psychological Assessments done for use in the Courts are commonly referred to as Forensic Assessments. Practitioners of Forensic Psychology should have a good understanding of legal procedures and practices and an excellent understanding of psychology, psychological research and the investigation of human behavior.
People may experience life events which bring them into contact with the legal system, whether it concerns a family member’s ability to competently write a will, a work-related injury, acquired disability, divorce, arrest or the experiential effects of malpractice. Nearly every human functional condition can bring one into contact with the legal system. Often, a psychological assessment is of great help to the individual and the Court in its deliberations and case outcome.
Some examples from different areas of law where Forensic Assessment may be useful include:
Accidents and illnesses can have serious psychological repercussions in the functional lives of individuals, their families and their everyday activities. After-Effects can spill over into interpersonal, school and work areas. We can provide:
- Expert witness consultation regarding psychological impairment.
- Disability chart and case reviews.
- Evaluations under the Americans with Disability Act.
- Guardianship and Competency in probate and criminal matters.
- Psychological and psychiatric standard of care issues.
- Independent Medical Evaluations (IMEs) for disability.
- Disability and Worker’s Compensation Evaluations.
- Consultative Evaluations (CEs) for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claims.
Family and Law Conflicts
Families often require more legal aid than is commonly realized. especially when a disabled child or adult comes in contact with the legal system or when a family seeks adoption. Other family issues concern estate planning and competency of parents to complete a will. Other examples include:
- Foster care, adoption and attachment issues.
- Guardianship & Competency of minors and seniors.
- Delinquency and reckless behavior.
- Parenting evaluations and consultations.
- Divorce issues, including high conflict divorces and post-divorce disputes.
- GAL assessments, including custody & visitation issues.
- Abuse, neglect and physical maltreatment issues.
Psychological Effects of Personal Injury and Tort Applications
The psychological effects and possible damage stemming from personal injuries are many and varied. The most commonly known condition arising from personal injuries is Trauma, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has gotten the most media coverage. But any number of psychological conditions can arise from personal injuries. Typically, psychological injury arises from street, school, or work-related accidents, but can also be caused by ballistic injuries, concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (M/TBI), and “vicarious” traumatization or “trauma by proxy.”
Even worse, such damages are also often “masked.” That is, they either aren’t readily observable or intuitively understandable to the naive observer and may be “masked” by other behavior that is more readily observable. Thus, psychological injury often goes unreported, is misdiagnosed, or is wrongly attributed to other causes. We can provide opinions and consultations regarding:
- Therapeutic malpractice and standard of psychological care.
- Consultations regarding general psychological damages.
- The effect of trauma and abuse on children – including emotional loss and abuse, physical and sexual abuse and witnessing domestic or other violence.
- Psychological damage in children and adults caused by:
- medical procedures
- dental procedures
- malfunctioning products
- Masked psychological damages and impairment due to:
- physical injury
- emotional trauma
- chronic disabling conditions
- “bystander” experiences.
- Chronic Pain Syndromes versus Malingering.
- Adjustment Disorders.
- Failure to Thrive or Improve.
- Suspicion of Fraudulent Claims or Credibility Issues:
Immigration and Asylum Issues :
We can also provide psychological assessments and opinions regarding immigration and asylum applications and appeals. This is an emerging field of increasing importance as we face an increase in “failed” states and learn more from refugees about the living conditions under oppressive regimes, the enduring effects of war, poverty and famine and survivors of “ethnic cleansing.” Some locations might include The Balkans, some central African states, former Eastern Bloc nations and nations governed by dictatorship. Examples of our services include:
- Assessment of the psychological consequences of rape, torture and institutionalized or state-sponsored abuse.
- Human Rights Violations and Issues.
- K-1 (“Fiancee”) Visa applications and Opinion about suitability for marriage.
- The Psychological impact of enforced repatriation.
- Credibility Assessments.
- Ability to Assimilate.
- The Impact of “foreign” Cultural Aspects upon “western” Psychological Conditions.
Medical, Therapeutic or Legal Negligence
Negligence is multi-faceted. Many things in a professional relationship can go wrong in what was done and what was left undone or poorly done. Some less well-known areas of concern include:
- Competence to give informed consent.
- State of mind at the time of a medical procedure.
- Appropriateness and thoroughness of pre/post-operative counseling or advice.
- Ability for medical compliance.
- Psychological injury arising from lack of care or clinical negligence in cosmetic surgery, cardiology, OB/GYN and pediatric specialties.
Criminal issues are not only multi-faceted, but also carry the additional possible issues of publicity, community involvement and resource allocation. Some areas where a psychological assessment may be of help to the Court include:
- Risk Assessments
- Pre-sentencing reports
- Personality Assessments
- Impact of psychological issues on behavior.
- Effects of substance abuse.
- Opinions as to rehabilitative Prospects
- Opinion as to therapeutic response.
- Assessment of eye witness statements.
- Opinions as to disputed confessions or coercion.
File Review, Expert Testimony and Continuing Education Services
In addition to providing assessments, we also provide Case Review and File Review services regarding the psychological and behavioral health assessments that other professionals or organizations have conducted. We also review and supervise the diagnostic, treatment planning and clinical services provided by other clinical professional regarding psychological and behavioral diagnosis and treatment.
As you can see, Forensic Assessments can be very helpful!
We also offer confidential behavioral and clinical services for members of the legal community, including members of the judiciary, law enforcement personnel and governmental personnel, including their family members. For more information, please see the descriptions of our services under The Clinical Psychologist
The Forensic Psychologist.Com Direct Consult Line: 508 420 1974
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