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:

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:
    1. emotional loss and ?abuse
    2. physical and sexual abuse
    3. witnessing domestic or other violence
  • Psychological damage in children and adults caused by:
    1. medical procedures
    2. dental procedures
    3. malfunctioning products
    4. toxicity.
  • Masked psychological damages and impairment due to:
    1. physical injury
    2. emotional trauma
    3. chronic disabling conditions
    4. acute pain
    5. “bystander” experiences.
    6. Chronic Pain Syndromes versus Malingering.
    7. Adjustment Disorders.
    8. Failure to Thrive or Improve.
    9. Suspicion of Fraudulent Claims or Credibility Issues

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.

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.

Confidential Behavioral Health Care and Therapy

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.


Grand Rounds: What is a “Psych Eval?” – and why would I want one? Part 1

Grand Rounds: What is a “Psych Eval?” - and why would I want one? Part 1 By Michael Abruzzese, Ph.D. © Copyright 2021 Vista Health…
The Divorce Game (Not a TV Show)