The quality of forensic psychological assessments, reports, and testimony: acknowledging the gap between promise and practice

Law Hum Behav. 2000 Feb;24(1):9-44. doi: 10.1023/a:1005422702678.


During the past decade, the field of forensic psychological assessment entered a period of standard setting, reflected in the publication of specialty guidelines for practice and in the proliferation of educational opportunities, training programs, and credentialing and certification procedures for forensic examiners. Representing significant efforts to advance the quality of psychological assessments in legal contexts, these developments foreshadow the promise of forensic assessment. During this same time period, new evidence emerged regarding the quality of forensic practice. This article reviews this evidence and evaluates current practice against the promise of forensic assessment. Forensic reports appear to be of higher quality than those described by commentators in the 1970s and early 1980s; nevertheless, the level of practice falls far short of professional aspirations for the field. The review identifies significant areas of weakness that demand the attention of professional organizations, accrediting agencies, educators, lawmakers, practitioners, and consumers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Custody
  • Expert Testimony*
  • Forensic Psychiatry*
  • Humans
  • Mental Competency
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychology, Clinical*
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • United States