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Post-doctoral Residency (Fellowship) Program in Forensic Psychology

The Post-doctoral Residency (Fellowship) Program in Forensic Psychology offers residents a year of seminars and supervised clinical and research experiences that are intended to prepare scientist-practitioners for a career as Forensic Psychologists in addition to covering the content areas assessed for in the ABPP certification in Forensic Psychology. To this end, the fellowship is structured to mirror the Postdoctoral Training in Forensic Psychology Guidelines provided by the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP) and is approved for the ABFP Experience Waiver. We anticipate that we will have four positions for the 2024-2025 Academic year (September - August).  A new “court clinic track” position is being added this year and will be part of the program moving forward. Our program, which was developed and initiated by Dr. Thomas Grisso, Ph.D., ABPP (Forensic), has a lengthy history of providing advanced and comprehensive training in forensic psychology. The program continued to thrive for many years under the direction of Ira Packer, PhD, ABPP (Forensic). While Drs. Packer and Grisso remain involved in our program, leadership has again shifted, and our fellowship is now being directed by Ashley Murray, PhD.

Entering its 34th year, the Residency Program is administered by the Law-Psychiatry Program, Department of Psychiatry, UMass Chan Medical School. The program is funded by a contract from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health’s Forensic Services. Upon completion of their training, many of our residents have taken early-career positions with the Commonwealth's forensic mental health services, while others have taken both applied and academic positions in other jurisdictions.

The Law & Psychiatry Program

The Law-Psychiatry Program at UMass Chan trains both forensic psychology and forensic psychiatry residents. While the applied forensic experience and supervision are somewhat different for these two sets of fellows, they participate in one didactic program which includes clinical and legal components.

The Program's objectives are consistent with recent trends in training in psychology, which encourage a general pre-doctoral internship followed by a post-doctoral year of training in a specialty. In many states, these two years satisfy the experience requirements for licensing as a psychologist. The Program is also designed to provide the necessary training and experience for certification as a “Designated Forensic Psychologist" , which is required by state regulations for public sector forensic mental health positions in Massachusetts.

Advanced study in forensic psychology requires the development of a thorough knowledge of mental health law, both federal and state, related to forensic clinical populations and forensic evaluations. Equally important is an understanding of the relevant legal and mental health systems and agencies. In addition, residents are trained to apply psychological principles and knowledge to the legal system. The Program provides residents the opportunity to acquire this knowledge through various rotations and didactic training.

Our Forensic Psychology Residency focuses on the application of clinical psychology in service to the legal system, to individuals about whom the legal system must make decisions, and to other clinical populations for whom clinical decisions may be of legal importance. The Program provides training and experience in forensic clinical assessment, especially in evaluations for questions such as competence to stand trial, criminal responsibility, violence risk assessment, sentencing, civil commitment, commitment of substance abusers, and need for treatment. The didactic training covers the breath of areas in Forensic Psychology, including both criminal and civil areas.

Unique to our program, residents are afforded significant opportunities to conduct criminal responsibility evaluations using the American Law Institute (ALI) standard, that is, assessing for deficits in both a defendant’s cognitive (wrongfulness) and volitional capacities secondary to psychiatric illness in the commission of a crime. Further, residents are often able to testify many times, in different courts, on issues of civil commitment (issues of dangerousness due to mental illness) and occasionally on issues of competency to stand trial and/or criminal responsibility.

Forensic psychologists with specialized post-doctoral training should bring to their future work setting an enhanced capacity for applied research on forensic questions and populations. Residents in the Program are provided time, resources, and supervision to develop their research abilities by performing research on forensic and mental health law issues. Topics may be developed by the residents or through their collaboration with faculty in their on-going research projects.