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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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What makes a forensic psychologist?

Forensic psychologists have received training specific to the application of psychological principles and data to the legal arena.  Forensic psychologists should be aware of the basic legal issues involved in the referral question, such as criminal responsibility, competency, custody, and sexual misconduct.  For example, a clinical psychologist could evaluate two parents and conclude that Dad is the better placement for the child.  However, in Michigan, for example, the law states that if a custodial environment has already been established a clear and convincing evidentiary standard is necessary to warrant a change in custody.  If the custody evaluator is unaware of this legal issue, the recommendations are useless to the court.  It is entirely possible that Dad could be the best or better parent and not win the custody case because no clear and convincing need for changing custody has been established.

Forensic psychologists undergo extensive training in the use and application of psychological tests and assessment instruments in order to utilize them effectively and ethically.  Forensic psychologists also rely heavily on “multiple data points.”  Multiple data points include the use of collateral information, such as interviews with other parties, review of important records such as medical history, school records, court records, etc.  Forensic psychologists also are required to take a more detached and critical approach to the data.

Finally, forensic psychologists are trained to be evaluative and critical in their interaction with the person being examined.  This leads to a more balanced and well-rounded evaluation.  Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, are trained to empathize with the client.  As a result, they tend to be cautious in providing negative information about the evaluatee so as to maintain a therapeutic alliance with this individual.

Forensic psychologists apply the psychological data available to them to the legal question at hand.  Without a clear understanding of the legal issues and how psychological factors impact upon such issues, evaluations may be less than optimal to the Trier of Fact.  It is precisely because of the need to interface between often competing and opposite systems and each system’s standards and requirements that make forensic psychology a specialty area of psychology.