What's Forensic Neuropsychology?

Forensic neuropsychology is not a different field from regular neuropsychology, but what a forensic psychologist focuses on is making sure that every assessment that is used, every conclusion that is reached, is based on solid research, solid data, and can be defended, quite frankly, in a forensic or a legal setting. The difference with that is that a neuropsychologist, who is working more in a clinical realm, is going to be looking much more at what information does the assessment give us about what we need to do to make your life better, to make you more functional in what you do. What the forensic psychologist is looking more at is what does this information tell us that we can defend and demonstrate is a direct result of the injury caused by the event that happened. So very often, the tests are not going to necessarily be different. They're going to be the same set of assessments. How they're put together, how they're interpreted, are going to be much more structured. There's a lot less leeway for interpretation. There's a lot less consideration of life circumstance, and more what does the test data tell us directly, what can we conclude about causality, what can we conclude about responsibility. What can we conclude about specific areas of the brain, perhaps, that may have been affected. Whereas, clinically, we may look at that stuff, but we're much more concerned about how does this performance inform how we then frame our rehab and what do we do and help you make life decisions. So it's the same kind of tests. It's going to be a little bit more formal, a little less collaborative, a little more formal and strictly by the book, really looking for the goal of being able to make a definitive statement about this is what happened, as opposed to making a clinical judgment, in terms of what do you need to move forward.

Forensic neuropsychology focuses on data often used in legal settings. Learn more.

Celeste Campbell

Dr. Celeste Campbell is a neuropsychologist in the Polytrauma Program at the Washington, DC Veterans Administration Medical Center. She has a long history of providing cognitive psychotherapy and developing residential behavioral management programs for children and adults.

Posted on BrainLine February 7, 2011

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Brian King, BrainLine.

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