What To Look For In Forensic Psychologists As Expert Witnesses

Forensic psychologists are mental health professionals used to assist in legal matters. They apply clinical psychology to determine if a person is mentally well enough to stand trial, among other roles. Expert witnesses are often key factors in determining the outcome of complex civil and criminal cases.

In this article, you'll discover what to look for in forensic psychologists as expert witnesses. 

Psychiatrist or Psychologist

Before you hire forensic psychologists, determine what your specific need is. Many people confuse the roles of psychiatrists and psychologists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors that can prescribe medicine to treat mental and emotional issues. In a trial, psychiatrists can testify about a person's mental state as a result of a medication or medical diagnosis.

Psychologists administer and evaluate the results of assessments determining the extent of someone's psychological, mental, and emotional trauma. They use this information to testify in regard to a person's criminal responsibility, mental competency, or ability to stand trial. Fees for forensic psychologists are charged by the hour and are based on years of experience. The average for 5 years of experience is roughly $400/hr.

Board Certification

The American Psychological Association requires that forensic psychologists hold an American Board of Professional Psychology certification specializing in forensic psychology. Otherwise, they must be able to demonstrate their knowledge and experience in the field. They also offer extensive guidelines on topics such as integrity, fees, and methods of practice. To earn board certification, applicants must have completed 100 hours of formal education after receiving a doctoral degree. They must also have received 1000 hours of experience after receiving their degree within 5 years. 

Psychologists can hold a doctoral degree of PsyD or a Ph.D. PsyD is a focus on clinical work while PhDs have a focus on research. PhDs in psychology are more difficult to attain as the programs are very competitive.

Track Record of Ethical Behavior

The APA offers ethical guidelines for its members and certification candidates and requires that any misconduct be expressly reported. Forensic psychologists that act ethically possess the relevant education and certifications necessary and are aware of the laws governing the area they are testifying in. As professionals, they are also required to be aware of and follow the APA's guidelines for professional ethics. As an expert they should offer their opinion based on accuracy and expertise, avoiding bias. 

You can find qualified forensic psychologists to act as expert witnesses through referral services. These save you the time it would take to perform interviews for all the potential candidates. Before hiring an expert, clarify what you'll need them for to get the best testimony for your case.