Forensic Psychology & Neuropsychology
The Difference Between a Forensic and Clinical Evaluation
There are significant differences between these two types of evaluations, including: the referral source, the goal of the evaluation, the examiner/examinee relationship, the role of the examiner, the ethical principles that guide the evaluation, the scope of the evaluation, the content of the completed report, and the payment source for the evaluation. In general:
A clinical assessment is used to drive diagnosis and treatment planning. This is considered to be medically necessary and can be billed to insurance.
A forensic assessment answers questions for a Court, government agency, employer, or an attorney, and CANNOT be billed to insurance. Either the ordering party (attorney, Court) or the examinee (injured party) pays for the evaluation.
Completed for legal purposes to determine the facts under question in a legal matter. These reports are generally more extensive and detailed than a clinical report. They incorporate a greater amount of collateral (third party) information and may involve police reports, employment records, legal records, etc. The emphasis is on providing an expert opinion for the Court or employer and answering specific questions. Treatment recommendations are generally not provided as the examiner is not the examinee's doctor.
Completed for medical purposes to assist in the diagnosis and treatment planning. These reports are generally shorter and more technical as they are written for the purpose of communicating with other treating providers. It is not usually necessary to review extensive records other than the relevant medical records. No expert opinion statement(s) are made and no legal issues are addressed. (An exception to this would be some competency/guardianship cases where patient safety is a concern.) A clinical psychologist role cannot be later converted to a forensic psychologist as the focus of the evaluation was different and the doctor/patient relationship has been established.
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