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Forensic Psychology

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Forensic Psychology: An Overview
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, Forensic Psychology ❖ 7

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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, developmental, counseling,...

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