December 16, 2012

Training: Controversies in sexually violent predator evaluations

I am excited to announce that the American Psychology-Law Society has accepted a panel that I put together on "Emergent controversies in civil commitment evaluations of sexually violent predators." I hope some of you will join me at the annual conference in Portland, Oregon on March 7-9.

The symposium will address three areas of controversy in the sex offender civil commitment field:
  • Mental abnormality and psychiatric diagnosis in court (my topic)
  • Recidivism risk assessment (addressed by my esteemed colleague Jeffrey Singer)
  • Volitional control (Frederick Winsmann, clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, will present a promising new assessment model)
Here's the symposium abstract:
Over the past three decades, Sexually Violent Predator litigation has emerged as perhaps the most contentious area of forensic psychology practice. In an effort to assist the courts, a cadre of experts has proffered a confusing array of constantly changing assessment methods, psychiatric diagnoses, and theories of sex offending. Now, some federal and state courts are beginning to subject these often-competing claims to greater scrutiny, for example via Daubert and Frye evidentiary hearings. This symposium will alert forensic practitioners, lawyers and academics to some of the most prominent minefields on the SVP battleground, revolving around three central areas of contestation: psychiatric diagnosis, risk assessment, and the elusive construct of volitional control. The presenters will review recent scholarly literature and court rulings addressing: (1) the reliability and validity of psychiatric diagnoses in sexually dangerous person litigation, (2) forensic risk assessment tools and how risk data should be reported to triers of fact, and (3) how best to address the issue of volitional impairment, a Constitutionally required element for civil commitment. The focus will be on how to assist the courts while remaining within the limits of scientific knowledge and our profession's ethical boundaries.
The conference schedule hasn't been issued yet so I don’t know which day our panel is presenting, but I will keep you posted when I find out, probably in January. In the meantime, if you are looking to pick up Continuing Education (CE) credits, the pre-conference workshops are a good way to get some high-quality forensic training:
  • The ever-informative Randy Otto on "Improving Clinical Judgment and Decision Making in Forensic Psychological Evaluation," with a heavy focus on identifying and reducing bias (full-day workshop) 
  • Paul J. Frick on "Developmental Pathways to Conduct Disorder: Implications for Understanding and Treating Severely Aggressive and Antisocial Youth" (full-day workshop)
  • Amanda Zelechoski on "Trauma-Informed Care in Forensic Settings" (full-day workshop)
  • Kathy Pezdek on "How to Present Statistical Information to Judges and Jurors" (half-day workshop)
  • Steven Penrod on "Things That Jurors (and Judges) Ought to Know About Eyewitness Reliability" (half-day workshop)
Portland is a lovely city, especially in the spring, so register now, and mark your calendars for what is sure to be a lively and educational event.

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