Forensic Psychology: Emerging Topics and Expanding Roles

By Witt, Philip H. | Journal of Psychiatry & Law, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Forensic Psychology: Emerging Topics and Expanding Roles


Witt, Philip H., Journal of Psychiatry & Law


Forensic Psychology: Emerging Topics and Expanding Roles, by Alan M. Goldstein (Ed.) (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2006), 819 pp., $150.00.

In recent decades, forensic psychology has matured as a specialty. In the early decades, most forensic psychologists were limited to psychological testing. Rarely did forensic psychologists testify in court. Rendering opinions in court was the role of the forensic psychiatrist. Then, over time, forensic psychologists began to perform evaluations in traditional criminal cases, such as insanity or competence to stand trial, regularly offering testimony in such cases. Eventually, over the past few decades, forensic psychologists expanded the range of cases in which they have become involved and the roles they have adopted. Perhaps the largest expansion has been in family law cases, including evaluations and testimony in child custody and child abuse cases, the former typically done privately and the latter usually performed for child protection agencies. In addition, psychologists now regularly perform evaluations and give testimony in tort cases, ranging from slip-and-fall cases to workplace harassment to abuse victimization. All these are what I will call "neotraditional" forensic areas, that is areas that although perhaps relatively new for psychologists are not new for our forensic predecessors, forensic psychiatrists. All these both traditional and neotraditional areas are well reviewed in Alan Goldstein's earlier edited volume Forensic Psychology: Vol. 11, Handbook of Psychology (2003).

His present edited volume. Forensic Psychology: Emerging Topics and Expanding Roles (hereafter referred to as Emerging Topics), goes beyond, ranging widely over topics infrequently covered in a review text such as this. Some of the chapters deal with familiar topics, but from an unfamiliar direction. For example, many forensic evaluations incorporate third-party information, but frequently the use of this information is taken for granted. Not in Emerging Topics. Randy Otto, Christopher Slobogin, and Stuart Greenberg devote an entire chapter to this topic, exploring ethical and admissibility issues and even providing a model for collateral interviews. Similarly, other chapters review a range of topics that are usually not directly addressed, such as:

* Paul Lipsitt reviews ethical issues specific to forensic psychology practice.

* Kirk Heilbrun and colleagues review the principles underlying forensic mental health assessment and apply these principles to a variety of evaluation types.

* A number of test specialists discuss the application of psychological tests that are commonly used in forensic cases, such as the MMPI-2, PAI, Rorschach, or neuropsychological testing.

* Richard Redding and Daniel Murrie discuss how courts make use (or not) of forensic mental health evidence.

* Susan Knight and Robert Meyer discuss forensic hypnosis.

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