Legal Issues and Clinical Psychology

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Two legal issues associated with clinical psychology include the use of forensic psychologists in courts and the use of psychological tests in the hiring process.  According to the text, clinical psychologists who also train in criminology become forensic psychologists.  The text describes their field as:

“Forensic psychologists may conduct psychological evaluations with defendants and present their findings as an expert witness in court. They may also provide evaluations for child custody arrangements, or be asked to predict dangerousness or competency to stand trial. They may be asked to participate in worker’s compensation claims, or serve as consultants to attorneys who are selecting a jury (Plante, 2005).”

Forensic psychologists are becoming more vital in criminal and civil cases, particularly in the areas of consulting. A forensic psychologist can help an attorney choose the ideal jury for his client, while choosing a jury is a legal process, the psychological components cannot be ignored. Is it legal to use a forensic psychologist to evaluate a potential juror? Yes. Is it ethical? This is  gray area, particularly in the light of films like “The Runaway Jury” where information obtained during the course of an evaluation can be used to influence a jury.

Testing is another legally troubling area for employers. Clinical psychologists who work in industrial and organizational psychology are aware of the growing trend of using tests in the hiring process. Integrity tests are the most popular and among those legally administered to potential employees. Legally, employers cannot base their hiring and firing decisions solely on a personality test, but by making an integrity test one step in the hiring process, it helps to eliminate future problems.

Plante, T. G. (2005). Contemporary Clinical Psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

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