In assessing a forensic program, it is reasonable to ask about faculty and adjunct supervisor qualifications and expertise. It is important that programs have faculty members who are well qualified to teach and supervise in the areas to which they are assigned (APA, 2002, Standard 2.01). Although this admonition sounds obvious, as the pressure for forensic psychological training increases and new programs are created, it is important that programs and potential students critically evaluate the expertise of faculty for providing forensic training. We should never confuse competence in providing clinical services with competence in providing forensic clinical services or nonclinical forensic services or research.
The type and quality of training also will be affected by the administrative structure and financing of the training programs. For example, generalist programs are less likely than forensic specialty programs to have faculty members who are broadly trained in forensic psychology. The availability and size of the faculty members who are expert in forensic psychology will also impact the type of training that is available. This is not to argue that having one faculty member is necessarily worse than having five faculty members in a program. The issue is one of fit between the particular career aspirations of the trainee and the skills, abilities, and availability of the faculty at a particular program.
Perhaps the most basic and often overlooked issue in forensic training is that forensic services are broader than simply providing assessment or treatment in legal settings. For example, psychologists serving as policy analysts in a state legislature, serving in an administrative capacity within a governmental agency, or providing expert testimony on a wide variety of psychological topics are all providing forensic psychological services. Trainees need to look critically at what specific training programs offer and how well those offerings match their career goals. In addition, programs that focus on clinical assessment or treatment typically limit their focus to particular areas of forensic services in these two domains. Once again, trainees need to understand how these limitations will affect their competence when they graduate. Forensic research programs face the same issue. Not all programs provide training in all areas of forensic research.
Moreover, it is unreasonable to expect a limited number of faculty members to competently train students in all areas of forensic psychology. What is reasonable, however, is to expect that training programs will accurately represent what areas of forensic psychological research and services training will be offered to trainees if they choose to attend that program.
Return to the overview of Forensic Psychology Education.