Specific Objectives; Applied Forensic Clinical Experience, Research and Training, Seminar

Applied Forensic Clinical Experience

1. Range of Evaluations

The resident will perform or participate in performing forensic evaluations under supervision for each of the following issues:

  • Competency to stand trial
  • Criminal responsibility
  • Violence risk assessment
  • Sentencing
  • Prisoners in need of treatment
  • Civil commitment
  • Commitment of substance abusers
  • There may bean opportunity to participate in competency restoration groups

2. Autonomy and Level of Expertise in Evaluations

For the types of evaluations delineated above, the resident will perform a sufficient number under supervision to be capable of functioning by the end of the training year at a high level of competence, responsibility and autonomy. In these areas, the resident will be encouraged as soon as possible in the year to have primary responsibility, under proper supervision, for all aspects of the evaluation process (that is: problem formulation, data collection, interpretation, and report writing). By the end of the year the resident will be expected to pass a written examination of forensic practice in Massachusetts and to prepare reports at a level of quality required for certification as a Designated Forensic Psychologist in Massachusetts. The resident should also be qualified to take the written examination of the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP).

3. Breadth and Focus 

Residents will obtain forensic evaluation experience in inpatient forensic evaluation settings as well as court clinics. Although the majority of the clinical experience is with individuals involved with the criminal justice system, experiences are also provided with civil populations (for instance, assessing need for civil commitment, assessing need for involuntary substance treatment, consulting with inpatient settings regarding risk of violence of civil patients) as well as potential opportunities with other populations.

4. Forensic Consultation

The resident will be exposed to, and gain some experience in, providing consultation to other mental health professionals on clinical questions related to legal issues. This will occur in the context of Forensic Team consultations to inpatient treatment teams, community providers, and by experience in consulting to courts through court clinic placements.

5. Expert Testimony

The resident will gain exposure to, and experience in, providing expert testimony to courts. These opportunities will arise in the context of civil and criminal evaluations at Bridgewater State Hospital, DMH hospitals, at court clinics, and by observation of core faculty when they are called to testify in their own evaluation cases. In addition, the resident will participate in mock trial exercises and receive feedback from both mental health and legal professionals.

Research and Training  

 1. Personal Research

The resident will develop, design and implement a research study in an area of his/her choosing on a problem in forensic evaluation/treatment or in mental health law. In some cases, this might involve a project that includes problem conceptualization, research design, data collection, and reporting of results. Limits imposed by a single year of residence in the program, however, often make it difficult to accomplish this during the year. Thus some resident may wish to perform a research project that involves a comprehensive review of a forensic mental health issue and literature related to it.

2. Teaching

The resident will obtain experience in teaching other professionals by providing occasional presentations to: predoctoral psychology interns, psychiatry residents, conferences and workshops offered by the Law-Psychiatry Program, and other teaching forums as opportunities arise (such as training of police and lawyers).

Seminar Objectives

1. Formal Knowledge in Forensic Psychology/Psychiatry

Formal knowledge may be acquired through all aspects of the fellow year, but is especially intended to be derived from the two weekly seminars, By the end of the year, these seminars will have provided the fellow the opportunity to have acquired knowledge of the following:

  • Principles of forensic mental health assessment.
  • Legal principles that are relevant to specific forensic evaluations.
  • Major U.S.  case law dealing with critical issues in policy and practice in mental health and forensic cases.
  • MA General Laws and Regulations pertaining to mental health evaluations, treatment and practice in criminal and civil cases.
  • Legal and ethical issues in the provision of forensic mental services (MA and national)
  • Rules, procedures, and techniques related to providing expert witness testimony.

2. Formal Knowledge of Forensic Research

Didactic training will include reviews of major research studies addressing legal policy and forensic services involving mentally ill adults and minors. In addition, the fellow will become familiar with:

  • Major texts in forensic psychology/psychiatry.
  • Major research journals in these fields.
  • How to review and critique research manuscripts submitted to journal editor.
  • How to find and read statutes and legal cases.

3. Integration of Formal Knowledge and Applied Experience

The resident will obtain this integration in several forums: The Law & Psychiatry Program's biweekly case conferences, the Tuesday morning seminar, and through general supervision at various applied forensic experience sites.

4. Preparation for the ABPP examination in Forensic Psychology

The seminars and didactic experiences are designed to include the broad range of areas subsumed in the Specialty of Forensic Psychology. By the end of the year, residents will be prepared to take and pass the ABPP in Forensic Psychology.