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Forensic Psychiatry Questions and Answers

What is Forensic Psychiatry?
Forensic Psychiatry is a subspeciality of Psychiatry. It involves the interface between psychiatry and the law.

What do Forensic Psychiatrists do?

    • Medico-legal evaluations of individuals in criminal, civil, probate, occupational, military, immigration and other cases.

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Is there a difference between a Board-Certified Forensic Psychiatrist and a general Board-Certified Psychiatrist?

Board-Certification in Forensic Psychiatry by the ABPN reflects a level of medico-legal training, with its unique skillset, a general psychiatrist does not receive. Residency in Psychiatry is focused on diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders. Forensic Psychiatry, on the other hand, adds an additional year of training in a fellowship learning about medico-legal issues like

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Before accepting a case, what does the Forensic Psychiatrist need to know from the attorney?
In my own case, after being contacted by an attorney or other party, I will usually respond with a phone call at no cost. I must determine if there are any conflicts of interest and if my expertise is relevant to the matter.
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What do Forensic Psychiatrists Learn in Specialized Training?

Board-Certification as a Forensic Psychiatrist requires completing a one year Fellowship in Forensic Psychiatry, following Board-Certification in (general) Psychiatry.

During the fellowship year, one gains experience with medico-legal evaluations, learns about relevant Landmark Cases and attends lectures by Forensic Psychiatrists and Attorneys.

As a fellowship-trained Forensic Psychiatrist, I received specialized training to perform medico-legal evaluations. They are quite different from an evaluation for medical treatment.  What is a Psych IME? explains more about a medico-legal evaluation.

Best practices and professional standards exist to set a high threshold of practice in this area and continuing education required of every Forensic Psychiatrist covers civil as well as criminal considerations in the Forensic evaluation, report of opinions and testimony.

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How do I know if a Psychologist can do the job as an Expert Witness?

A psychologist may be the logical choice to serve as an Expert Witness, however, the training and qualifications, and limitations, of a psychologist vs. a psychiatrist should be considered by any attorney. A psychologist has training in treatment of mood disorders, like depression, or life coping mechanisms. They can diagnose some psychological disorders. They may not prescribe medicine or evaluate medical conditions.  A psychologist cannot even prescribe an anti-depressant, though they may suspect one will help their patient.  The psychologist must turn to a psychiatrist.

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What types of cases require a Forensic Psychiatrist?

Most cases contain an element of psychology–by which I mean emotional and mental processes.  Psychiatrists evaluate what we think of as “psychological” conditions. Read the rest of this answer…

Forensic Psychiatry Questions and Answers

Psychiatry – In Practice

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as violence, war, rape or serious accident. Close to 7% of all people in the United States experience PTSD at some point in their life.

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Brain Injuries Explained & MedicoLegal Implications

Brain injuries can include Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, Concussion and Post-Concussive Syndrome.   They can be catastrophic and result in significant disability.

Plaintiffs can be unable to work, attend school and maintain relationships. Defendants should consider the presence or absence of TBI if claimed by a plaintiff…
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Forensic Psychiatry Questions and Answers

Brain Injury Medicine

What is Brain Injury Medicine? Do I need a Brain Injury Medicine Expert Witness?

Brain Injury Medicine (BIM) is the study, diagnosis and treatment of a brain injury. Brain injuries can impact how well the brain functions including decision-making or memory. A brain injury can be congenital or might result from a blow to the head. This can be through falling, an accident, being assaulted, or something more complicated like a fall associated with another

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What qualifies a doctor to practice BIM?

The American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology Board-Certifies Psychiatrists and Neurologists in Brain Injury Medicine (BIM), a subspecialty of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. The Board-Certification provides a verifiable degree of knowledge in the field to enhance the quality of care of brain-injured individuals above the age of 15.

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Can a brain injury impact criminal behavior?

It is worth noting that about half of all incarcerated individuals have a history of brain injury.

If present at the time of the crime, brain injury could be the mental defect relevant in an Insanity or Criminal Responsibility defense. It could potentially be a factor in both the Cognitive or Volitional prongs.

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How do you know if a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is changing someone's behavior?

As a psychiatrist, I perform a detailed medical and psychiatric history. If an Independent Medical Examination is an option, I will perform a Mental Status Exam and interview. I may conduct a neurocognitive screen if indicated or I may recommend neuroimaging or forensic neuropsychological assessment to obtain additional objective data. Occasionally, I recommend

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