We at the William James College INTERFACE Referral Service are keenly aware of the shortage of mental health providers of color and how racial inequities exist in medical and mental health care. The College’s Black Mental Health Academy, Center for Multicultural and Global Mental Health, and other programs and academic offerings are playing a critical role in reversing this trend. We invite you to read a statement from our Black Mental Health Graduate Academy Scholars, and to stand with us as allies to drive change and address systemic racism.

Psychology & The Law

Psychology & The Law

What is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychology is the combination of law and psychology. It is the application of psychology within a wide range of legal contexts. These include: civil (non-criminal) matters such as child custody proceedings in divorce, guardianships, personal injury lawsuits, child requiring assistance (CRA), and involuntary civil commitments to psychiatric units; criminal matters such as competence to stand trial, criminal responsibility, or aids in sentencing; juvenile delinquency or youthful offender matters where youth are charged with crimes; and administrative law proceedings such as special education appeals or licensure complaints against professionals.

Why might you need a Forensic Psychologist?

One role of the forensic psychologist is to provide forensic evaluations to the court.  Forensic evaluations commonly address nonclinical issues as any clinical issues presented tend to serve as background information.  The client will often enter into a forensic evaluation as mandated by a judge or court and, as findings will be submitted to a court of law, it is of optimal importance for the forensic psychologist to determine accuracy of the client’s report.  Forensic evaluations tend to be less treatment-oriented and occur over a shorter period of time due to time constraints set by the court or judge.

Attorneys have wide discretion to choose whom they wish for experts to assist them in a case. In certain kinds of civil or criminal cases, Massachusetts courts ordering evaluations must rely upon a Designated Forensic Psychologist (DFP) in District or Superior Court cases, or a Certified Juvenile Court Clinicians (CJCC) in Juvenile Court cases. Massachusetts requires a certification as a Designated Forensic Psychologist in order to serve in a public sector forensic mental health position.

Forensic psychologists commonly provide evaluations that are intended to help an attorney, judge or jury make legally relevant decisions. The referral question will drive a forensic psychologist’s degree of attention to immediate clinical or treatment needs (e.g. accessing outpatient or inpatient care), educational or vocational needs, containment or supervision needs, or needs to make legal decisions (e.g. competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility, probation conditions, sentencing recommendations). 

If you are interested in learning more about graduate programs in forensic psychology, please click here.

To learn more, visit these Network of Care Resources:

Legal & Judicial Services