To be immersed in legal proceedings assails us, in addition to the most immense fears, a sea of doubts about what to expect, how to proceed and where to turn.
We use terminologies that we are not used to and, among many other actions to take, It is common for our legal representation to recommend that you contact a forensic psychologist to have a psychological expertise, which only arouses more fears… What is a psychological expertise? Why do I need it? How will this help me? We clarify concepts and resolve doubts.
What is Forensic Psychology?
Forensic psychology is that branch of legal psychology that takes place at the forum (from the Latin forensis, place where justice is done) or, in other words, in the courts, which is why it is also often called Applied Psychology in the courts.
Recognized by the collegiate body since 1998, this discipline aims to deliver expertise, which justifies that this science is also known as Expert Psychology, which is practiced by forensic psychologists or expert psychologists.
Who is and what does a forensic psychologist do?
Generally speaking, a forensic psychologist is one professional graduate in psychology who has specialized training in the field of expertise and who applies his knowledge of the human being to the legal field.
Its appointment can be made at the request of a party or by judicial appointment, i.e. either the person involved in the procedure can be of private interest (both the plaintiff and the defendant), or a judge using the professional intervention lists of the colleges of psychologists or requesting the participation of the technical advice teams of the own Administration of Justice (EATP, SATAF, etc.).
In any case, the main function of the psychologist in the forensic field is to make psychological assessments of judicial actors, issuance of a forensic psychology report with the ultimate aim of advising the judges in their decision-making (judicial decision) without this meaning, in any way, conditioning these provisions, the exclusive competence of the judge.
What is a psychological expertise?
The psychological expert report or the forensic psychology report is a document that has specific structural and content characteristics well differentiated from those of a clinical or traditional psychological report.
Without wanting to go into details because of the complexity inherent in each of the documents, the main difference between the two is that the Clinical Report, taking into account the aim pursued by Clinical Psychology, is conceived as a non-essential tool of the ‘ in the field of health, while in the forensic field it is an end in itself, since the expertise ends with its wording and its subsequent defense given its nature as judicial evidence.
In this sense, the Expert Psychologist tries to defend and defend a thesis, so that will serve as evidence in a procedure, answering the questions that motivated its development, which vary according to the jurisdiction from which they derive: civil and family, criminal or prud’homale.
Why a psychological expertise?
In civil and family jurisdiction, forensic psychological reports are generally recommended in custody and custody proceedings for assess the parents’ parenting skills, the impact that the separation or divorce has had on the children or make recommendations regarding the most recommended parent-child contact regimen for each family unit.
Likewise, also in the civil field, after the recent entry into force of Law 8/2021 by which the procedure of judicial incapacity is abolished, psychological expertise assesses the person’s ability to govern themselves and help identify supports that may be needed to support their self-reliance.
Within the Criminal Court, forensic expertise assesses the circumstances likely to modify the criminal responsibility (imputability) of the perpetrators, as well as the damage and psychological consequences, among others, of the victims. Witness Psychology is also specific to this area, according to which the expert psychologist will seek to determine the plausibility of the accounts of witnesses and victims of illegal acts.
It is also common to use the services of forensic psychologists specify psychopathologies or psychoaffective disorders at work. In this sense, in the Labor Jurisdiction, psychological assessments make it possible to clarify the causal or co-causal relationship between altered mental states and situations of harassment at work (mobbing) or professional wear and tear (burnout) and others. Likewise, psychological expertise in this field can be used to justify the request for incapacity for work (temporary or permanent), as well as to contest dismissals on the basis of the psychological exploration of the worker.
In short, forensic psychology aims to evaluate people in order to clarify their relationship with the facts judged, either by determining which personal psycho-emotional aspects favored the execution of the illicit act or were altered by the fact of the judged fact. .
In addition, it aims to determine the characteristic aspects relevant to the procedure, pursuing the ultimate goal of provide expert technical advice to judges by preparing a forensic report that not only makes explicit the exploration performed, but also offers conclusions and recommendations on the issues that prompted the forensic psychological evaluation.
So, if you need to technically justify any aspect when you are immersed in legal proceedings, a psychology expert can be a great tool.
- Adler, J. and Gray, J. (2010). Forensic psychology: some concepts and debates about practice. In J. Adler & J. Gray (eds.). Forensic psychology: concepts, debates and practice. New York: Willan edition.
- Official College of COP Psychologists. (s.f.). Legal Psychology: Official College of Psychologists. Madrid.