Civil and Criminal Forensic Psychological Assessment: Similarities and Unique Challenges

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The current article reflects on the similarities and unique challenges of civil and criminal forensic psychological assessment. We begin with an overall review of the general roles and ethical responsibilities of the forensic psychologist working in any legal arena. Topics such as ethics of the forensic examiner, the role of psychiatric diagnosis, consideration of malingering and response bias, use of psychological testing, and researching relevant laws and psycholegal questions are covered. We then discuss the particular challenges of working in a criminal forensic setting (e.g., conducting assessments in a correctional setting, working with potentially dangerous evaluees), as well as civil forensic setting (e.g., role of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in civil litigation). This paper will highlight that while there are unique challenges and aspects of working in a particular area of the law, more often than not, the same general principles and skill sets of forensic psychological assessment will translate between each area.