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What is a Forensic Psychiatrist?

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only. It is general information that Is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified mental health professional. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, consultation, diagnosis, or treatment.

Forensic psychiatry is a subspeciality in psychiatry where forensic psychiatrists apply their expertise in related legal matters. Per the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, forensic psychiatrists apply their

“scientific and clinical legal contexts involving civil, criminal, correctional, regulatory or legislative matters, and in specialized clinical consultations in areas such as risk assessment or employment.”

After general psychiatric training, forensic psychiatrists complete an additional year in a specialized, fellowship program. After completion, they pass a board examination to become board certified In forensic psychiatry.

Job opportunities can be divided into patient care, work as an expert witness, and consultation. Forensic psychiatrists can provide patient care in in forensic settings, such as jails, prisons, detention centers, and psychiatric state hospitals. Generally, this work is similar to general patient care in the community.

Forensic psychiatrists also function as expert witnesses in legal cases and proceedings. Frequently as part of their role, forensic psychiatrists conduct specialized clinical evaluations to provide an expert opinion on how someone’s mental illness is relevant to a particular legal issue. For example, in criminal cases, they evaluate how a defendant’s mental illness is impacting his participation in his trial. In civil cases, for example, they evaluate how one’s mental health impacts his ability to work. This information is used in disability, social security, and worker’s compensation claims. Lastly, forensic psychiatrists serve as a consultant role for regulatory and legislative matters. They use their mental health expertise to testify and educate government officials. They also can be part of legislative workgroups or organizations. In these roles, forensic psychiatrists can inform public health and safety policies and laws.

Forensic psychiatrists have a diverse role in the legal system. They apply their clinical expertise to provide patient care, specialized clinical evaluations, expert opinions, and

education and advocacy.


“Ethical Guidelines for the Practice of Forensic Psychiatry.” American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. May 2005.

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