What is forensic psychiatry?
Forensic Psychiatry is the practice of psychiatry as applied to legal matters. It is therefore related to criminology, because we forensic psychiatrists practice at the interface of psychiatry and law. We utilize our knowledge of psychiatry to understand behavior, emotion, and motivation related to any and all legal matters.
Legal matters can include issues as simple as whether or not a psychiatric patient needs hospitalization, to whether a medical patient has the capacity to consent to a procedure, all the way to criminal issues such as whether a criminal defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity when he committed a crime. In between those extremes lie hundreds of other legal scenarios, such as testamentary capacity, fitness or capacity for a variety of legal proceedings, custody matters, dangerousness, diminished capacity, and guardianship issues, to name but a few.
Forensic psychiatrists are specifically trained to understand the legal issues in each case we encounter, and then further trained to answer the psychiatric-legal questions applicable to the case. We know how to understand each person’s mental status, psychiatric history, diagnosis, and psychosocial history and interpret it relative to the legal issues being considered.