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Identifying the Forensic Psychologist Role

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Since its debut over a century ago, forensic psychology has matured into a formally recognized specialty area of psychology with its own set of ethical guidelines; however, a consensual definition of forensic psychology remains elusive. After describing the field’s historical

Since its debut over a century ago, forensic psychology has matured into a formally recognized specialty area of psychology with its own set of ethical guidelines; however, a consensual definition of forensic psychology remains elusive. After describing the field’s historical and current struggles to define itself, two ethical issues are discussed that are especially applicable to psychology in legal contexts. The first is the critical differences between serving in therapeutic versus forensic roles and the associated ethical obligation to refrain from serving in both roles in the same case. Despite the terminology used in the literature, treatment in forensic contexts can be ethically appropriate. This chapter considers the current state of the literature regarding treatment in forensic contexts and suggests that this is likely to be an area of future growth for the field. The second ethical issue discussed in this chapter is the insidious effect of the adversarial process on psychologists’ objectivity in forensic contexts, termed “forensic identification” or “adversarial allegiance.” The forensic ethical guidelines affirm the primacy of this issue in forensic contexts, as evidenced by addressing it in the first two published guidelines. However, field and experimental evidence suggest psychologists have a challenging (if not impossible) task in avoiding partiality in adversarial forensic contexts. The chapter ends by briefly considering the methods psychologist might use in an effort to reduce partiality and by recognizing more research is needed to identify what else psychologists can do to strive to uphold the ethical guidelines in this regard.

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2017

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Refusing and Withdrawing From Forensic Evaluations

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Aside from an article by Gutheil, Bursztajn, Hilliard, and Brodsky (2004), scant literature exists regarding why forensic mental health professionals refuse or withdraw from cases. The current study collected descriptive information about the reasons mental health experts decline or withdraw

Aside from an article by Gutheil, Bursztajn, Hilliard, and Brodsky (2004), scant literature exists regarding why forensic mental health professionals refuse or withdraw from cases. The current study collected descriptive information about the reasons mental health experts decline or withdraw from forensic assessments, both early and late in the legal process. In response to an online survey, 29 practicing forensic psychologists and psychiatrists presented examples of case withdrawal from their professional experiences. Their major reasons included ethical issues or conflicts, payment difficulties, and interpersonal or procedural problems with retaining counsel or evaluees. The results indicate that there are compelling personal and professional reasons that prompt forensic mental health experts to withdraw from or turn down cases.

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Date Created
2013

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Measuring Abuse Sequelae: Validating and Extending the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40

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The current study used the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40) to index both childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and childhood physical abuse (CPA) in a college student sample of both men and women (N = 441). Although the TSC-40 was designed as

The current study used the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40) to index both childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and childhood physical abuse (CPA) in a college student sample of both men and women (N = 441). Although the TSC-40 was designed as a measure of CSA trauma, this study concludes the measure is appropriately reliable for indexing the traumatic sequelae of CPA as well as CSA in nonclinical samples. The current study also explored the effects of gender and abuse severity on resulting symptomatology, finding that women and severely abused individuals report the most negative sequelae. Both CSA and CPA emerged as significant explanatory variables in TSC-40 scale scores beyond gender, supporting its validity for indexing traumatic sequelae in nonclinical samples.

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2013

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Occupational Socialization’s Role in Forensic Psychologists’ Objectivity

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This report integrated quantitative and qualitative methods across two studies to compile descriptive information about forensic psychologists’ occupational socialization processes. We also explored the relation between occupational socialization and forensic psychologists’ objectivity. After interviewing 20 board-certified forensic psychologists, we surveyed

This report integrated quantitative and qualitative methods across two studies to compile descriptive information about forensic psychologists’ occupational socialization processes. We also explored the relation between occupational socialization and forensic psychologists’ objectivity. After interviewing 20 board-certified forensic psychologists, we surveyed 334 forensic psychologists about their socialization into the field. Results indicated that the occupational socialization processes of forensic psychologists, including socialization about objectivity, varied widely across time and situation as the field has developed. Moreover, three hypotheses regarding occupational socialization were supported. It was positively and significantly associated with years of experience, t(284) = 3.63, p < 0.001, 95% CI = 0.05 – 0.16; belief in one’s ability to be objective, t(296) = 9.90, p < 0.001, 95% CI = 0.69 – 1.03; and endorsement of the usefulness of various bias correction strategies, r = 0.38 (p < .001, one-tailed). The implications of these results and directions for future research are discussed.

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2014