Forensic Psychology Concentration

Widely viewed as an exponentially explosive sub-specialty in clinical psychology, forensic psychologists practice at the intersection of psychology and the law and apply clinical and forensic psychology "best practices" to individuals involved in legal systems.  Forensic psychologists play an important role in assisting legal systems in understanding potential psychological issues and helping judges and juries weigh their legal significance.  More specifically, those practicing forensic psychology frequently provide psycho-legal evaluations, forensic consultations, treatment and testimony in both criminal and civil proceedings on a broad array of topics, such as mental status at the time of a criminal offense, competence to stand trial, "aid-in-sentencing", juvenile delinquency, the legal significance of trauma-related diagnoses (e.g., "battering and its effects", etc.), threat assessments, personal injury, malpractice, social security determinations, workers' compensation, child maltreatment and child custody and divorce evaluations- all in the service of responding to the psychological problems posed by crime and victimization.

Those declaring the forensic psychology concentration will gain knowledge of the major areas of study in the field of forensic psychology and its interface with legal settings.  The Forensic Psychology Concentrator will also learn the importance of adherence to professional standards, professional competence, and responsibility.  The Forensic Psychology concentration student will be exposed to "best practices" in forensic psychology and provided with a working knowledge of the civil, juvenile and criminal justice systems; relevant Massachusetts General Laws (MGL); and the various types of criminal forensic psychology evaluations (e.g., Competence to Stand Trial, Criminal Responsibility, etc.) and civil proceedings roles (e.g., guardianship, child custody, etc.) performed by forensic psychologists.   Additionally, declared forensic psychology concentration students will gain a thorough understanding of multiculturalism, diversity and differences as these dimensions interrelate in the field of forensic psychology. Further, the interface between juvenile justice children and family services; probation and correction systems; and, community services for forensically-involved individuals are investigated.  Students will also gain an overview of the types of forensic assessment instruments used in forensic settings as well as professional issues pertinent to the practice of forensic psychology consistent with the American Psychological Association Specialty Guidelines in Forensic Psychology. 

As an ever- expanding field, the interrelationship between trauma and trauma re-enactment in offender populations and the implication of diagnosis and misdiagnosis in legal settings are addressed by forensic psychologist as is malingering of PTSD and the interaction between neurobiology and PTSD.  Therefore, declared forensic psychology concentrators will also have the opportunity to explore emerging issues such as trauma histories of forensically-involved individuals and address general and specific layers related to the centrality of trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex trauma as each relates to the law and forensic mental health services.  These and other emerging areas in forensic psychology are examined by those in the doctoral Forensic Psychology Concentration to assure that concentrators stay abreast of new developments in the field.

Practice opportunities are not limited to but may include careers focused on the treatment of forensically-involved children, adolescent and adults; child custody and divorce evaluation services, district mental health and family court clinics services; correctional psychology, consultations mental health clinics that service forensically-involved adults, children and families (e.g., mental health and drug courts), treatment in forensic psychiatric hospitals, insurance claims and lawsuits evaluations and testimony, professional services in relevant legal public policy agencies, private practice and other forensically-related sub-specialties.  In summary, the Forensic Psychology Concentration provides students with a breadth of experience, knowledge and skills to meet the demands of this exciting specialty field of study.

Enrollment Process

The doctoral Forensic Psychology (FP) Concentration is open to Clinical Psychology Students. There is a yearly internal info-session scheduled before the Thanksgiving Break that provides students with an overview of the FP concentration and the declaration process. 

Qualified applicants will have resolved any incomplete grades and are in good academic standing.  Applications begin in the fall of year 2 (or year 1 for advanced standing students) with the understanding that the student will be seeking forensically-related field education training in their third year.

To enroll, students must download the Concentration Declaration Form from the Registrar's Office webpage on MyCampus.  The declaration form must be signed by the student's advisor first.  The student will then schedule a meeting with the Concentration Director  to review Concentration expectations and develop an individualized sequencing for Concentration completion.

Curriculum Map
Required Concentration Courses (9 credits)
CLI MH520 - Law and Mental Health (credits: 2) or instead with prior approval of the Concentration Director 
COU MH525 - Mental Health and the Law (credits: 3) (offered in the Master of Arts in Forensic and Counseling Psychology program)
CLI MH512 - Forensic Psychology I: Children and Families (credits: 2) 
CLI MH513 - Forensic Psychology II: Adults (credits: 2) 
CLI MH515 - Advanced Topics in Forensic Psychology (credits: 2) 

Additional Electives
CLI MH601 - Adult Forensic Assessment (credits: 2) 
CLI MH550 - Consultation and Testimony for the Professional Psychologist (credits: 2) 
CLI XX500 - Special Topics: Police Psychology (credits: 2)
COU FS501 - Sex Offender Evaluation and Treatment (credits: 3) (offered in the Master of Arts in Forensic and Counseling Psychology program)
Other courses may be approved by the Concentration Director for concentration credit.

Field Education Requirements (12 credits)
In their 3rd and 4th years, students must spend one year at a site related to child/adolescent and family forensic psychology and a second year at a site involving adult forensic work. Pre-doctoral internship sites include outpatient treatment clinics, child, adolescent or adult treatment facilities, court clinics, forensic hospital units or hospital units with forensic beds, correctional facilities, legal advocacy agencies, forensic residential treatment facilities, among others. Students will gain experience in assessment, evaluation, testing and treatment methods that will prepare students to work with a diverse forensic populations.

Doctoral Project Requirements (10 credits)
Students accepted into the Forensic Psychology concentration are required to complete a Doctoral Project germane to the specialty field of Forensic Psychology.
Additional Requirements

Upon completion of all clinical doctoral program and forensic psychology concentration requirements, the student will be acknowledged and receive a Certificate of completion in Forensic Psychology at graduation.

Gerald Sweet, PhD
Joseph A. Toomey, PhD
Robert Kinscherff, PhD, Esq.

Click here to read about the Program Director, Joseph Toomey. Please click here to connect with him if you have any questions about the program.

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