The field of psychology is quite broad, its application ranging from clinical to a myriad of other fields. Among them, forensic psychology is distinguished by a number of its own characteristics and tools in which the interests of those assessed are not the most important. The psychological expert report is one of these tools.
Like other psychological reports, this one it is a scientific, legal, non-transferable and personal document. The main difference between expert psychology report is that the process ends once the report has been delivered.
In this article, we will see what an expert report in psychology is and how it is carried out, its structure and characteristics.
When a psychological expert report is required
Specifically in the forensic branch of psychology, the psychology expert report is the culmination of the work done by the professional of forensic psychology.
Thus, this document is made to inform the judicial processes of the psychological characteristics of one or more persons paying particular attention to what this implies on the facts which are the subject of an investigation and which could lead to sanctions.
This report contains the information that has been gathered as part of the forensic assessment, and is then forwarded to the authority that requested it, either a judge or a prosecutor who demands that the report be used in court.
Since the psychological expert report is the achievement of the psychologist’s work in this area, it must be done with special care. Now let’s take a look at the considerations to take into account when developing them.
Writing: how is it done?
It should first be noted that this type of report is for people who do not belong to the psychology guild, And therefore should not contain too many unexplained psychological terms; the clearer and more universal the language used in writing, the better.
The forensic psychologist who made the report must be prepared to appear before the hearing and answer as clearly as possible to all questions put to him by the authorities present. That is why in the psychology expert report there must be contrasting and defensible evidence, And must not overlook any of the relevant details of the case, as one of them might raise an issue during the hearing.
Irrelevant aspects of the cause should be avoided at all costs, as well as inaccuracies in statements. The content of the document it must be perfectly coherent and arguableOtherwise, the report could be declared invalid for the cause.
The forensic psychologist must in no case condemn the subject in question, such as the psychological expert report he must be free from all kinds of prejudices and personal opinions. The accountability of the subject is the responsibility of the judge who will read the report. The psychology expert will only report mental alterations which may have given rise to acts committed by the subject in question.
The report should begin by stating that this is a forensic psychological report. After that, the information dump begins in a structured way, as we will see below.
1. Expert identification data and assessed
These are the data of the forensic psychologist responsible for preparing the report.
2. Reason for the report
The subject of the report is defined and the person requested in the judicial office is mentioned verbatim.
The techniques used during the subject’s assessment process are mentioned and explained: direct observation, semi-structured interview, psychological test …
4. Presentation of the information collected
Includes the family, personal, toxicological, hygiene habits, sleep and diet of the subject, medical history and psychological history. At the end, it is clearly explained what the relevant context is for the case and why.
Its fundamental characteristics
In addition to the aspects already mentioned in the wording, there are two essential characteristics for a correct communication of the results in the psychological expert report.
1. It is a scientific document
As such, it must meet the following criteria for its validity.
- Being a procedure subject to rules that can only be applied by a professional in forensic psychology.
- The conditions set out in the report will be of a psycho-legal nature only, displayed in such a way that they can be understood by court members.
- The data contained in the report should be sufficient to be reproducible by other forensic psychologists.
2. The document must meet a number of legal characteristics
You must write taking into account the constitutional guarantees and laws of the country of residence. For example, in Spain, it is in accordance with the law on criminal procedure. It fulfills the function of evidence, that is to say, which serves as a guarantee for judicial decisions.
The psychological expert’s report is an archivable document which does not lose its validity, that is to say that serves as a basis for future evaluations, And serves as the antecedent of a particular situation in a person’s life, to determine, for example, when he had a psychotic episode.
- COPC. (2014). Guide to good practice for medico-psychological assessment and expert practice.
- Shapiro, DL (1984). Psychological assessment and expert testimony (in English). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.