Regarding Forensic Evaluations
Forensic psychiatry operates at the interface of two disparate disciplines: psychiatry and law. According to the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL) as adapted from the American Board of Forensic Psychiatry, the field is “a subspecialty of psychiatry in which scientific and clinical expertise is applied to legal issues and legal contexts embracing civil, criminal, correctional or legislative matters.” It is recognized as a specific discipline within medicine by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and requires fellowship training under the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education for board eligibility. A national written exam, among other requirements, must be passed before board certification is conferred. Board Certified experts abide by the ethical guidelines of AAPL.
The expert evaluation of a case includes several components. Records may be surveyed, perused, page-reviewed, or verbatim-reviewed. Clients are usually interviewed. A forensic interview may last from about 30 minutes to several hours depending on the case and legal question. Some interviews are conducted over several days. The limits of confidentiality and purpose of the evaluation are made known to the client and consent is obtained. In some cases attorneys and certain other parties may be present during parts of the interview. The interview may be audiotaped or videotaped. The interview itself begins in the same fashion as a typical clinical interview, but is modified to assess different legal questions and is usually more comprehensive. Information gathered turns out not to be pertinent is some cases.
The interview may also involve standardized and other psychological tests. The type of test is specific to the case and is often determined from the interview content. Tests of intelligence and cognition, personality, malingering, and diagnoses are common. Some tests are adapted or modified to guide the interview, but most tests are conducted under standardized conditions by qualified persons. Many tests cannot be administered with others present.