The content and quality of forensic mental health assessment: validation of a principles-based approach

Tammy D. Lander, Kirk Heilbrun
2006
The expanding practice of forensic mental health assessment (FMHA) has created a need for more detailed guidelines within the field. Toward that end, Heilbrun (2001) has described a set of principles developed using relevant legal, ethical, scientific, and professional authority. The extent to which these principles are currently used in practice, however, is unclear. Moreover, these principles have not yet been validated through the use of global expert judgment, an approach with significant
more » ... with significant precedent in this area. The current study examined the content of written FMHA reports from Pennsylvania applying these principles to the reports. In addition, a measure of global report quality was obtained through a selected group of experts, allowing the status of the principles to be gauged against the global measure of quality provided by experts. The results suggest a surprising lack of adherence to standard practice principles within FMHA. Within the study, those reports that did contain evidence of the use of principles, even slight, were seen as more relevant, more helpful to the decision-maker, and of higher quality. Future research and discussion of the legal, ethical, and moral implications of the impact of FMHA on both legal and mental health systems should be undertaken with the goal of improving performance of those professionals that choose to engage in FMHA.
doi:10.17918/etd-887 fatcat:tjzg6wz6zfflnimojhm5wo35ju