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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Steven T. Herron, MD (University of Arizona Health Sciences Center)
Description: Penned as a resource for those practicing in the field of mental health law, this book addresses various general and advanced forensic topics from both clinical and legal perspectives.
Purpose: The authors state their purpose in writing this book is "to provide in-depth knowledge to both experts and attorneys" regarding the criminal justice system by considering the "major legal, empirical, and forensic issues found in the law-mental health interface."
Audience: Geared primarily toward attorneys practicing in the area of mental health or criminal law, this book is also useful for psychiatrists and psychologists who perform forensic work. It might also be relevant for students seeking specific training in forensic evaluations.
Features: The first portion of the book, broader in its presentation, is dedicated to many of the general concepts to be expanded upon in the later, more clinically oriented, chapters. Each chapter addressing specific legal issues is separated into four components, namely discussing the relevant legal standard, creating a clinical understanding of the legal standard, confronting clinical methods to assess the standard, and issues in the courtroom related to direct and cross-examination of expert witnesses.
Assessment: While this book is well researched and comprehensive, it is likely to be more valuable to legal professionals than clinical experts, as its style is mostly confrontational and rigid. The most difficult aspect of the practice of forensic psychiatry is translating abstract concepts of mental disorders into the concrete foundations used in law. In many cases, legal concepts are inflexible and do not appreciate the subtleties of psychiatric illness, making the value of an expert even greater if they are able to educate the fact finder. In addition, the concept of standardizing examinations with clinical instruments can be appealing, but the rea1ity of carrying out such a mandate would be problematic at best, and might, in fact, limit access to qualified practitioners of forensic psychiatry and psychology by those in need.