Forensic psychology is the application of psychological knowledge to the legal system.
Forensic therapy includes the psychological assessment, evaluation, intervention and treatment of individuals and/or families who are in the legal system either in criminal court, family court or drug court. Victims and families may be involved in forensic therapy. A forensic therapist may work in a therapeutic, supervisory, or consulting capacity, depending upon the client's situation and the requirements of the legal system.
A forensic evaluation is a generic term used for any psychological evaluation ordered by the court. It's purpose is to assess the presence and severity of psychological problems of an individual. At a minimum, these evaluations assess for the presence and severity of any major mental health disorder, (Axis I disorder), or personality disorder, (Axis II disorder).
The court may further order that the psychologist evaluate the potential for such specific difficulties as the potential for domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, substance abuse, violence, or the presence and severity of a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as child custody, family reunification, and so on.
* Reunification therapy is becoming more widely used in divorce cases. ... In most cases a court order is necessary whereby the purpose of reunification therapy is an attempt to identify the relationship between the child and the reunifying parent while identifying the stressors which have impacted the relationship.
A forensic evaluation includes the following: a thorough clinical interview, the administration of at least two psychological tests, and a report. The clinical interview involves a comprehensive developmental history and psychological history of the individual. This may include interviewing teachers, nannies, tutors, and anyone else associated with the children or family in the case of a family court order. The comprehensive report addresses the referral questions of the court.
As to the length of a forensic evaluation, the assessment interview usually requires from two to four hours.
Psychological testing ranges from a minimum of three to seven hours. A psychological report may take from two to six hours to complete depending upon the variables and persons interviewed in order to answer the referral questions by the court.
A social investigation involves a thorough analysis for the court of what is in the best interests of the child. It is an evaluation ordered by the court when parents cannot agree on a parenting schedule and/or the decision making responsibilities regarding the health, education, and extra curricular activities of children. As pointed out in the American Psychological Association (APA), " From the court's perspective, the most valuable contributions of psychologists are those that reflect a clinically astute and scientifically sound approach to legally relevant issues. (pg. 864)
A social investigation consists of interviews with all concerned parties, individually and with each other. Each parent is then invited to perform a task with each child in the investigator's office to assess how well they cooperate with each other. The investigator then interviews significant people in each child's life including teachers, babysitters, and tutors as well as individuals who are familiar with the parenting skills of the adults parties. These are known as collateral interviews. The investigator also assesses the home of each parent to ensure a safe, secure, and child friendly environment.Psychological testing is also administered when appropriate.
When the evaluation is complete, the forensic evaluator is expected to write a comprehensive report for the court. This report will address the strengths and weaknesses of each parent as well as any psychological issues affecting the best interests of the child. It may also recommend special services when required including psychotherapy, the need for a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), the need for a parent coordinator, or the need for tutoring.