Building on the first edition published in 2008,1 the second edition of Learning Forensic Assessment: Research and Practice provides a comprehensive guide for forensic mental health providers to better their understanding of the scope and tools available to perform forensic assessments. The editors, Rebecca Jackson and Ronald Roesch, updated the text and incorporated new developments in mental health since the first edition. They make special reference to changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Historical Clinical Risk Management-20, case law, and additional forensic assessment tools. In doing so, they fulfill their stated purpose.
Similar to the first edition, the text is designed for graduate psychology students who are learning forensic assessment, as well as for psychologists coming into forensic practice. The text is divided into five broad areas: Professional and Practice Issues, Adult Forensic Assessment, Juvenile Forensic Assessment, Civil Forensic Assessment, and Communicating Your Findings.
Part I provides an overview of training in forensic assessment, legal theory related to mental health, and ethics-related questions in forensic mental health. Parts II and III discuss forensic assessments for adults and juveniles, respectively. Topics include adjudicative competency, violence risk assessment, and psychopathy, among others. The adult section also covers insanity assessments and topics relevant to execution. The juvenile section reviews topics that become relevant when juveniles are transferred to adult criminal courts.
The fourth section of the book focuses on civil forensic assessments, such as child custody, disability, and personal injury, and there is a chapter on civil commitment and decision-making capacity. Part V is on the communication, both oral and written, of experts' forensic opinions.
The chapters are authored by respected forensic psychologists, many of whom contributed to the first edition of the text. Although, as a whole, the text is geared toward forensic psychological assessment and use of psychological tools, each chapter provides fundamental material and case law that are relevant to psychiatrists who conduct civil and criminal evaluations for the courts. Many of the chapters include historical perspectives of the subtopics and provide concise summaries of the legal cases that shape the forensic topics. For example, in the chapter on insanity, the author provides an overview of the development of the insanity standards and law and compares the various insanity standards that are currently in effect in various jurisdictions in the United States. These sections complement the author's discussion of the basic components of the current insanity standards and give practical information as to how to conduct assessments of insanity.
Although the text has many uses, forensic psychiatrists, particularly trainees, will find the book beneficial in two key respects. First, all of the chapters that cover topics of assessment (Parts II–IV) detail assessment tools specific to the forensic topic being covered. Where relevant, the authors provide descriptions of assessment instruments and information about validity. It is helpful for psychiatrists to have an appreciation of these tools and how they may be applied in court, whether they are personally making use of them or in cases where they incorporate into their opinions results of tests that have been performed by psychologists.
Again, in the chapter on insanity, for example, the author describes the use of structured interview tools such as the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (SADS) and modifications of this tool for insanity evaluations. The SADS is compared with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Disorders (SCID), and the author articulates his rationale for preferring the SADS over the SCID in this context. Also included in this chapter are subsections on the application of psychological tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2, Personal Assessment Inventory, and Structured Inventory Reported Symptoms. The information provided includes clearly presented discussions of personality dynamics.
Second, many chapters provide a case illustration. In these how-to sections, the authors walk the reader through a forensic scenario and give guidance on the selection of assessment tools, legal standards, and the nuts and bolts of conducting an assessment on the topic in question. Case examples are representative of the types of cases one would see in actual forensic practice. They are written in a logical, step-by-step manner that allows readers to follow along with the assessments.
In summary, this comprehensive text provides both fundamental material for novice forensic evaluators and practical and specialized information to instruct practitioners on how to conduct various forensic assessments and make use of specific tools. The instructional approach makes the chapters reader-friendly for those learning forensic assessment. The updated material is particularly useful for more seasoned practitioners seeking to update their knowledge in specific subtopics related to forensic psychology.
Disclosures of financial or other potential conflicts of interest: None.
- © 2016 American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law