The timing of forensic training raises a fundamental training issue. As previously noted, forensic training can occur predoctorally, during internship, postdoctorally, through continuing education programs, through on-the-job training, or through self-directed reading. All may be perfectly appropriate for providing forensic psychological expertise, but we have no data to know what kind of impact these training methods have on the acquisition of forensic psychological knowledge and skills.
Because the discipline and specialty is uncertain about the merits of the different training approaches, licensure for practice still depends on doctoral training that includes an internship component. But after licensure is attained, decisions about whether to engage in a specialty forensic practice are left to the ethics of individual practitioners. Once again, we have no data to know how well practitioners self-monitor and self-evaluate the competency of their forensic skills. Not surprisingly, some jurisdictions, in response to perceived weaknesses in forensic practitioner competency, now require specialty training for certain types of evaluations (e.g., see 2012 California Court Rules 5.225(d)-(i), which specifies specific training, education, and continuing education requirements for individuals performing child custody evaluations for the California courts).
The timing, extent, and type of training individuals receive will also affect their ability to obtain board certification in forensic psychology. Board certification as endorsed by the American Board of Professional Psychology (n.d.) allows certification in 14 distinct psychological areas, including forensic psychology, and represents one of the two board certifications listed in the APA directory. To become a board-certified specialist in forensic psychology, individuals must do six things:
- Complete an approved internship.
- Accrue a significant number of general clinical practice experience.
- Obtain at least a minimum number of hours of specialized training in forensic psychology.
- Work within the field of forensic psychology for a prescribed number of years.
- Submit two work samples in two different areas of forensic psychological practice.
- Pass oral and written examinations.
(For the specific requirements for board certification in forensic psychology, see American Board of Forensic Psychology, n.d.) If forensic practitioners or students are interested in becoming board certified, they must choose training experiences that will fulfill these requirements. Thus, prospective trainees and practitioners interested in specialty certification must address carefully the timing and adequacy of training needs.
Return to the overview of Forensic Psychology Education.