What Exactly Does A Forensic Psychologist Do? By Dr. Erik Dranoff, Ph.D.


What Exactly Does A Forensic Psychologist Do? By Dr. Erik Dranoff, Ph.D., Bergen County Moms

Breaking Down This Important And Often Misunderstood Role.

KEY POINTS

  • Forensic psychology uses psychological principles and research in many different areas of law.

  • It involves a wide range of services, including evaluations in criminal, civil, or family court as well as court-involved psychotherapies.

  • It employs a multi-method approach to data collection consisting of record review, interviewing, collateral contacts, and psychological testing.

  • Forensic psychologists assist courts by giving opinions that are grounded in sufficient data collection and address legally relevant factors.

When I tell lay people that I am a forensic psychologist, they often picture me working with law enforcement in a criminal profiling case. As the conversation progresses, they learn that forensic psychology involves using psychological principles and research in many different areas of law. They are surprised to learn that forensic psychologists have a strong foundation in clinical, counseling, or school psychology where they have developed specialized to assist the court in a legal case. Forensic psychologists conduct a wide range of services, including evaluations in criminal, civil, or family court as well as court-involved psychotherapies. During one’s work as a forensic psychologist, they can conduct evaluations in a wide range of contexts, including sentencing mitigation in criminal cases, psychological damages in personal injury cases and child abuse in family court cases. Regardless of the case, the forensic psychologist employs a multi-method approach to data collection consisting of record review, interviewing, collateral contacts, and neuropsychological/psychological testing. By collecting information from multiple sources, the professional is able to increase the validity and reliability of information that they are relying upon. When a forensic psychologist has been appointed by the court to give an opinion about the psychological functioning of an individual or family, it is not sufficient to simply conduct an interview and administer testing. The professional will use a multi-method approach to data collection so they can corroborate the information that is being provided in the interviews or obtained from the psychological testing. For this reason, the forensic psychologist will also review legal, educational, and mental health records as well as conduct collateral interviews with people who knows the person well or other professionals involved in the situation. After obtaining information from a wide range of sources, the professional can develop a greater understanding of the individual so an opinion can be provided to the court. Prior to accepting an appointment by the court or being retained by an attorney, a forensic psychologist will make sure that they have specialized knowledge to address the psychological questions facing the court. After conducting the evaluation and drafting a written report, the professional can be called to discuss their opinion in direct testimony and defend their statements in a cross-examination. During the testimony, the judge will listen attentively to the testimony and will make a determination about whether the professional has provided a credible opinion. By giving a well-reasoned opinion that is grounded in a sufficient data collection and addresses legally relevant factors, the forensic psychologist will assist the court in their decision making about the psychological issues in the case.



Dr. Erik Dranoff, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist at Lukin Center Psychotherapy, who divides his professional time and focus between clinical practice, professional service, teaching, and research. His clinical practice is focused in the areas of psychological, neuropsychological, and forensic evaluation for children, adolescents, and adults. Dr. Dranoff’s approach to assessment is comprehensive, scientifically driven, and adheres to the highest practice and ethical standards in the field of professional psychology. Dr. Dranoff graduated with highest honors in Psychology from Rutgers University and went on to complete his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. During his doctoral training, he obtained a strong foundation in the area of psychological assessment with children, adolescents, and adults at Four Winds Hospital and specialized training in neuropsychology at Rehabilitation Specialists. completed his pre-doctoral internship at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, New York where he received broad training with an inpatient and outpatient hospital population. His doctoral program and internship training are both fully accredited by the American Psychological Association.


 
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