The World of Forensic Assessment

For many friends and clients the word ‘forensic’ conjures up a vision of dead bodies and autopsies. When I tell them that I do forensic work it generally begins an interesting conversation. Forensic psychological evaluation is the application of scientific methods and techniques to answer questions which arise in a legal proceeding.

For much of the past 35 years I have been performing forensic evaluations in a variety of settings including criminal, custody, personal injury, malpractice cases, and other legal and quasi-legal settings. The use of the Rorschach Comprehensive System (CS) has been invaluable in developing an extensive description of the individual being evaluated.

The practice of personality assessment in a legal (forensic) setting is different from a general clinical practice. As psychologists we enter a different world, with different rules, and different stressors. If we perceive our role as describing and teaching, it makes the transition to the forensic arena much easier.

I have never treated or evaluated an ‘insane’ person! In our profession, that is a word that is not often used to describe what psychological process is occurring. On the other hand, when you enter the world of criminal psychological assessment you must address the issue of ‘insanity’.

This is where the practice of forensic psychology gets interesting. In effect, the psychologist must translate from one language (psychology) to another language (legal) and explain complex psychological processes. To make matters more interesting, each state and the federal jurisdictions have different definitions of insanity.

This is where the CS can be an invaluable tool. Exner, Weiner and Sciara (1996) published a survey of forensic psychologists using the CS in 32 states including various state and federal court systems. In over 7934 reports of use, on only one (1) occasion was the use of the Rorschach CS denied by the court!

While the CS and other psychological tests do not have a direct correlation to diagnoses (a la DSM), it does provide extensive information on how a person functions psychologically. With the CS we can answer questions about accuracy of perception, level of disturbed thinking, adherence to social norms, narcissistic-like qualities, controls, affective functioning, etc. When
used as part of a multi-method evaluation procedure, including an extensive history, records review, other psychological testing, and other documents, the forensic evaluation becomes an invaluable resource in the courtroom to assist the ‘trier of fact’ in making decisions about the individual being evaluated.

Available for Purchase Online – February 1, 2016: The Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC), Anthony D. Sciara, PhD

The Forensic Client History and Checklist (FCHC) is a structured history questionnaire and a checklist for criminal competency. It was designed out of my 35 years of practice in both the forensic and general clinical fields.

In both the forensic setting and the clinical setting there were many times when the client was gone and I recognized that I did not have information about specific areas of functioning or of their history which would be essential to a complete evaluation. At first I attempted to outline questions before the evaluation, but found that I always forgot something. Finally, I worked for
several years on a written outline that I would fill out with the assistance of the client. It worked incredibly well and clients were very helpful in following along with the structure of the interview.

The FCHC has recently been updated and revised along with an updated and revised Manual. The manual reviews each section of the FCHC and describes the type of information to be gathered. It also describes how to ask certain questions and the importance of developing a positive response set on the part of the client. For the clinician or forensic practitioner the FCHC provides a real time documentation of a client’s history and background that provides a foundation for any personality assessment report

Time to Register for 2016 Programs

Details and registration are available at www.rorschachtraining.com – “training programs – beginning.”

The first option is to assist those with challenging work schedules. We will have a 4 Day Beginning Program, February 18-21, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. The Program includes the same number of teaching contact hours as the five day program but is condensed into longer hours over a weekend. This Program will be held at the Comfort Suites, Frisco, Texas, that is north of Dallas, convenient to airports (Love Field and DWI) and is within walking distance of Frisco Square that offers a wide range of restaurants, cinema, etc.

The second option is the regular 5 Day Beginning Program to be held at the University of Hartford, West Hartford, CT, Monday – Friday, June 27- July 1, 2016. A courtesy room block is being held at the Marriott Residence Inn, downtown Hartford.