Clark R. Clipson, Ph.D.
Clipson and Osterloh, APC

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FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT

What is forensic psychology?

Forensic psychology is the application of the science of psychology to the legal system.  Specifically, forensic psychologists are called upon to apply psychological principles, theory, and research to questions posed either by legal statute or the Court.

What is forensic assessment?

Forensic assessment is used when a psychologist is hired to answer a specific legal question (i.e. competency, insanity, etc.). Depending on the specific question, the psychologist will conduct a clinical interview, collateral interviews (e.g. with witnesses, family, friends, police officers, etc.) review records (i.e. medical, psychological, criminal, school, etc.), administer psychological tests, and form an opinion to answer the legal question.

How is forensic assessment different from clinical assessment?

Forensic assessment is not the same as clinical (therapeutic) assessment. When a client is referred for clinical assessment, he or she (or their therapist) pose their own questions regarding diagnosis, treatment recommendations, personality functioning, etc.  In a forensic evaluation, the client can be ordered by the Court to participate in an evaluation to address a legal question, or they may be referred by their attorney to assist in their case. 

 
When might a forensic evaluation be necessary?

Clients are referred for a forensic evaluation when their attorney believes it may be beneficial to their legal case or when a judge orders someone to participate in such an evaluation. Some common legal questions that forensic psychologists are asked to address include:

  • Was the individual insane at the time of the commission of the crime?
  • Is a defendant competent to assist their attorney at trial?
  • What is the level of incarceration, supervision and type of treatment needed to reduce future criminal acts in a person? 
  • What is the likelihood an individual might commit a future violence act (including domestic violence), and how might that risk be reduced?
  • What is the likelihood that an individual might commit a future sexual offense, and how might that risk be reduced or managed?
  • What is causing an adolescent to engage in deliquent acts, and how might that risk be reduced? 
  • Is an individual able to work (or return to work) because of either cognitive or emotional reasons?
  • Mitigational factors for sentencing, especially in capital or third-strike cases. 
  • Determination of the cause, type and extent of either cognitive and/or emotional damages to a plaintiff in a civil case.
  • How has the victim of physical and/or sexual abuse been negatively affected by their abuse?
  • Does a sexual offender meet the legal criteria as a sexually violent predator?
  • Is a person competent to make medical, financial, or legal decisions for themselves?
  • Has a person previously found not guilty by reason of insanity been restored to sanity? 
  • What is causing an individual to engage in criminal activity, and how can these factors be reduced or managed?
  • How has the victim of a crime been affected by the crime?
  • Is an individual competent to waive their Miranda rights?
  • Are there any psychological factors (cognitive or emotional) that would impact a person's ability to make a competent confession to a crime?

 
Dr. Clipson has extensive experience in conducting psychological and neuropsychological evaluations to address these legal issues, including media and high profile cases.

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