Forensic Research and Practice

The Program, with its emphasis on training clinicians to apply the principles of clinical psychology in the legal arena, adds an additional competency (i.e., Forensic Research and Practice). We are particularly proud of our work in this area, which includes coursework and experiential training. With respect to coursework, we offer the following classes:

Coursework Related to Forensic Psychology

Forensic Assessment I
(PSYC 8360)

This required course examines issues related to conducting assessments for the criminal courts. Students review and critique current research in forensic psychology, as well as developing case law. Emphasis is placed on constructing the written report and on the ethical issues often faced in the forensic forum. This course will include a practicum component in which students perform forensic assessments with the instructor.

Mental Health Law
(PSYC 7336)

This required course explores state and federal constitutional, statutory, and case law regulating mental health professional practice. Topics include: child abuse/neglect reporting laws, civil commitment, confidentiality and privilege, duty to protect third parties from harm, psychiatric hospitalization of inmates, and state licensing requirements.

Law and Social Psychology
(PSYC 7333)

This elective course applies social psychological theory and research to the legal system. Critical examination of contentious topics such as recovered memories, false confessions, eyewitness adequacy, and death qualification is undertaken through careful study of a wide variety of original sources. The influence of social class in legal settings is also considered.

Forensic Assessment II
(PSYC 8361)

In this required course students continue to develop skills in forensic assessment with an emphasis on the civil case issues (e.g., juvenile evaluations, personal injury, and child custody). Current research in forensic psychology, as well as developing case law, are reviewed. Providing expert testimony in the courtroom will be discussed in detail, and students are required to participate as witnesses defending a case they have completed in a mock trial exercise.

Practicum Training in Forensic Psychology

As a requirement of our Forensic Assessment I course, students must conduct a forensic assessment (e.g., competency to stand trial, mental state at time of offense) under the supervision of a faculty member. Our practicum training includes the opportunity to work in various adult and juvenile settings with forensic populations, including local jails, juvenile detention, adult and juvenile probation, sex offender treatment, and state hospitals with insanity acquitees and incompetent defendants. Many students go on to complete numerous forensic assessments with adults and juveniles through our Psychological Services Center—at the clinic and in correctional facilities—before leaving for internship.

Research in Forensic Psychology

Many of our students have conducted thesis and dissertation research related to issues in forensic psychology. Our coursework and practicum experiences stimulate critical thought related to our field and inspired many meaningful projects. Our strong relationships with many of our practicum sites have facilitated access to forensic populations. Below is just a sampling of the many topics examined in our recent students’ research and more can be found in our list of student publications and presentations.

  • Reliability and validity of forensic and risk assessment instruments
  • Evaluator biases in forensic assessment
  • Competency for immigration proceedings
  • Factors related to sexual offender recidivism
  • Suicide among adults on probation
  • Malingering among offenders who are mentally retarded
  • Psychopathy
  • Treatment of female sexual offenders
  • Expert testimony
  • Neuropsychological profiles of offenders
  • Forensic Assessment of Latinx defendants
  • Psychiatric diagnoses and adjudicative competence abilities