Forensic psychology—like many specialties in psychology—is difficult to define precisely.
As John Brigham (1999) writes, if you ask a group of psychologists who interact
with the legal system in some capacity, “Are you a forensic psychologist?” many will
say yes, some will say no, and a majority will probably admit they really do not know.
Referring to his own testimony in court, Brigham notes that, when asked the question,
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his most accurate current response would be, “Well, it depends.” As Brigham points
out, the professional literature on the subject adopts one of two prominent definitions.
Some of the literature defines forensic psychology broadly as the research and application
of psychological knowledge to the legal system, whereas some of it prefers a more
narrow definition, limiting forensic psychology to the application and practice of psychology
as it pertains to the legal system.We (Bartol & Bartol, 1987) offer the following
definition: “We view forensic psychology broadly, as both (1) the research endeavor
that examines aspects of human behavior directly related to the legal process . . . and
(2) the professional practice of psychology within, or in consultation with, a legal system
that embraces both civil and criminal law” (p. 3). Ronald Roesch (cited in
Brigham, 1999) suggests a narrow definition:“Most psychologists define the area more
narrowly to refer to clinical psychologists who are engaged in clinical practice within
the legal system” (p. 279). This definition may be too restrictive because it seems to
imply a specialty called “forensic clinical psychology.” Furthermore, it excludes—
among others—clinicians who offer counseling services to inmates and perform other
corrections-related tasks. The broad definition, on the other hand, includes not only
clinicians (also called practitioners) but also social,... [continues]
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