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What is Forensic Psychology? The Link Between Psychology and the Legal System

What is Forensic Psychology? The Link Between Psychology and the Legal System

Forensic psychology, a relatively new field within psychology, involves the psychological assessment of individuals who are involved with the legal system. While one must have training within the fields of law and forensic psychology, also critical are the forensic psychologists’ clinical skills. That’s because forensic psychologists perform clinical assessments, interviewing and report writing, plus they must have strong communication skills and case presentation skills.

The job of a forensic psychologist may involve anything from providing threat assessments for schools and child custody evaluations to competency evaluations of criminal defendants and counseling services for victims of crime. Psychologists and neuropsychologists are also involved in civil litigation cases such as where there is a lawsuit due to the psychological consequences of an accident, worker’s compensation claims, medical malpractice, etc. These include evaluations of brain injury, PTSD, as well as depression, anxiety or other psychiatric dysfunction. According to the American Psychological Association, the practice of forensic psychology involves:

  • Investigations
  • Research studies
  • Assessments
  • Consultations
  • Design and implementation of treatment programs
  • Expert witness courtroom testimony

The word “forensic” originates from the Latin word “forensis,” which means “of the forum,” referring to the places where the law courts of ancient Rome were housed. Today, forensic refers to the application of scientific principles and practices to the legal arena.

This specialized branch handles issues that connect psychology and the law. It’s no secret that interest in forensic psychology has grown in recent years. However, while it’s a relatively new specialty area within the field of psychology, its foundation goes back centuries. Philosophers and scientists have always wanted to more clearly understand what makes people commit crimes, behave in aggressive manners or engage in antisocial behaviors.

But in terms of its official recognition as a specialty within psychology, forensic psychology wasn’t officially recognized by the APA until 2001. Forensic psychologists today strive to understand not just why criminal behaviors occur, but also how such actions can be minimized and prevented.

Forming the intersection of psychology and the law, forensic psychology brings together many professionals who aren’t necessarily called forensic psychologists per se, but comprise anyone from child and psychologists to neurologists and counselors who provide psychological expertise in providing testimony, analysis or recommendations in criminal cases.

For example, clinical psychologists may provide mental health services such as assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, tasked with providing an opinion on whether or not a suspected criminal suffers from a mental illness.

School psychologists, as another example, may evaluate children in suspected abuse cases, help prepare them to provide court testimony, or provide testimony themselves regarding child custody disputes.

Here at CMPS, we have many neuropsychologists (many of whom are board-certified psychologists) and psychiatrists who give specialized forensic evaluations. Dr. Geoffrey Kanter (double board-certified in both Neuropsychology and Pediatric Neuropsychology), backed by 25 years of forensic experience, leads our team in offering high-quality evidence-based evaluations which provide solid conclusions rooted in scientific literature.

Contact Comprehensive MedPsych Systems

To learn more about our forensic psychology and neuropsychology services, please contact us at one of our many locations. We offer anything from case reviews and independent medical evaluations to private consultation and expert witness testimony.

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