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FORENSIC VS. PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION
WHAT MAKES A FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST
CUSTODY EVALUATION
CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY
COMPETENCY TO STAND TRIAL
PERSONAL INJURY EVALUATION
CRIMINAL SEXUAL CONDUCT
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FORENSIC VS PSYCHOLOGICAL  EVALUATION
Aspect of Evaluation

Forensic Evaluation

Ordinary Psychological Evaluation

Client Court/legal authority Examinee
Focus of evaluation Narrow, legally defined Broad, professionally defined
Confidentiality Available under FOIA Completely confidential
Privilege Attorney-client Mental health professional-client
Role of Evaluator Impartial, objective, detached Advocate, therapeutic, alliance
Sources of Information Reliance on third parties Reliance on examinee

Assumed Test Taking Set of Examinee

Variable Honest but perhaps defended
Role of diagnosis Limited Significant
Ultimate Decision maker & authority Trier of Fact Examinee & professional
Goal of Evaluation Informing Trier of Fact Betterment of examinee

This table provides an overview of the difference between forensic and clinical psychology.  There are two primary areas of difference. In a forensic examination, it is the attorney/court/legal system who is considered the client of the psychologist.  This is extremely important because it provides the framework for fair and unbiased evaluation.  It is the job of a forensic psychologist to provide information to the attorney/court/legal system pertinent to the case at hand.  It is not the job of the forensic psychologist to consider what would be helpful to the person being examined

The other significant area of different between forensic psychology and clinical psychology is the nature of the question to be answered as a result of the evaluation.  In clinical psychology, the most important law of evaluation is to provide a clear and accurate diagnosis of the client in order to facilitate treatment.  Forensic psychology, on the other hand, has the goal of providing information to the attorney or court regarding the legal question at hand.  For example, a clinical psychologist could conduct an IQ exam and determine that the client is mentally deficient.  Clearly, this provides an accurate diagnosis, but does nothing to answer the question of the individual’s competence to stand trial or their criminal responsibility.  Both of these issues have specific legal definitions and criteria for meeting legal standards.  IQ is, at best, merely the starting point in making recommendations regarding competency.

For example, the defendant could be incompetent to stand trial because they are actively psychotic or paranoid and unable to work with the attorney in their best interest.  IQ would have nothing to do at all with such determination.