Training Opportunities

SCDMH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Forensic Psychology

The SCDMH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Forensic Psychology is divided into two, six-month rotations, each of which provide extensive exposure to criminal forensic evaluations.

Forensic Evaluation Services Rotation

This rotation focuses on conducting criminal forensic evaluations related to competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility, and capacity to conform conduct to the requirements of the law. This department receives referrals for the entire state allowing exposure to evaluating males, females, and juveniles* with a wide range of legal and diagnostic issues. More often than not, referrals contain requests for both types of evaluations, providing considerable experience answering both psycholegal questions.

Fellows will have the opportunity to conduct several evaluations per week as well as observe and/or assist with expert opinion and court testimony as available. These evaluations may also contain the assessment of malingering/effort and/or intelligence testing as needed.

When available, the opportunity to re-evaluate a defendant after a period of competency restoration will be provided, as the restoration period is 60 days in South Carolina.

*While not the primary exposure on this rotation, experience with juvenile competency evaluations can be accommodated should the fellow have an interest in that area.

Sexually Violent Predator Rotation

Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) is a legal term used to describe a unique subgroup of sexual offenders, held civilly after their period of incarceration has ended, until deemed safe to be at large and not likely to sexually recidivate upon release. These offenders are housed in mental health facilities for long-term control, care, and treatment. This rotation provides the opportunity to conduct two types of forensic evaluations with this population.

Precommitment Evaluations:
Prior to their commitment, individuals meeting a particular threshold are evaluated to determine if they meet criteria for commitment under South Carolina’s SVP Act. These evaluations assess the presence of a “mental abnormality” and the degree to which it affects a person’s emotional or volitional capacity that predisposes them to commit sexually violent offenses. Fellows will conduct these evaluations and observe and/or assist with court testimony related to their findings when appropriate. Evaluations consist of extensive diagnostic and risk assessment discussion.

Annual Review Evaluations:
Once committed, SVPs are evaluated annually to determine whether there is “probable cause to believe the resident’s mental abnormality or personality disorder has so changed that the person is safe to be at large and, if released, is not likely to commit acts of sexual violence.” Fellows will have the opportunity to conduct these evaluations and provide court testimony as required. These evaluations consist of actuarial and dynamic risk assessment discussion.

Both evaluations will provide training on structured and semi-structured interview methodologies as well as exposure to the scoring and interpretation of actuarial risk assessment measures (e.g., the Static-99R and 2002R), dynamic risk assessment, and the assessment of psychopathy (e.g., the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised). Other measures (e.g., personality assessment, intelligence testing, malingering) may also be incorporated when needed.


Didactics and Other Trainings 

Extensive psycholegal education and training is provided throughout the year, nearly all of which is in concert with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine’s Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship. Each training area is designed to comply with the standards and expectations of the American Board of Forensic Psychology covering case law, ethics, and socio-cultural/ethnic factors related to performing forensic assessments.

  • General Topics in Forensic Psychology – meets weekly and covers a wide variety of topics related to forensic psycholegal practice, to include ethics, correctional psychology, disability evaluations, guardianship evaluations, and child custody evaluations
  • Landmark Case Seminar – meets weekly and covers more than 100 of the major landmark cases in mental health law, including cases unique/relevant to South Carolina
  • Fundamentals of the Legal System Seminar – meets weekly and covers topics related to the legal system, to include the Juvenile Justice System, and covers standards for admissibility of expert testimony in federal and state courts
  • Sexually Violent Predator Seminar – meets weekly and covers topics related to risk assessment, diagnostic issues, evaluation, treatment, and recidivism of sexual offenders
  • Evaluators Seminar – meets quarterly and covers topics related to the various nuances involved in forensic report writing and answering psycholegal questions in written and verbal means (e.g., testimony)

Additional Trainings

  • Grand Rounds – are offered nearly every Friday and cover a wide variety of topics related to the assessment and treatment of mental health issues. Fellows will have the opportunity to present a topic of choice at a grand rounds during the training year
  • Mock Trials  several mock trial experiences will be held during the second rotation providing the opportunity for voir dire, direct, and cross-examination

Supervision

All aspects of the fellowship are designed to provide the required number of supervised experience to meet licensure requirements as well as the expectations of the American Board of Forensic Psychology. All experiences are under the direct supervision of the training director and licensed forensic practitioners. In addition to the evaluations and various seminars, fellows will receive 
two-and-one-half (2.5) hours per week of individual supervision with the primary supervisor(s), and at least two hours (2) per week of group supervision with qualified supervisors.

Readings and

Required Texts

  • Doren, D. M. (2002). Evaluating sex offenders: A manual for civil commitments and beyond. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Melton, G. B., Petrila, J., Poythress, N. G., Slobogin, C., Otto, R. K., Mossman, D., & Condie, L. O. (2018). Psychological evaluations for the courts: A handbook for mental health professionals and lawyers (4th ed.). New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
  • Otto, R. K., & Weiner, I. B. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of psychology: Forensic psychology (Vol. 11). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Packer, I. K. (2009). Best practices in forensic mental health assessment: Evaluation of criminal responsibility. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
  • Rosner, R. (2003). Principles and practice of forensic psychiatry (2nd ed.). London, England: CRC Press.
  • Witt, P. H., & Conroy, M. A. (2009). Best practices in forensic mental health assessment: Evaluation of sexually violent predators. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
  • Zapf, P. A., & Roesch, R. (2009). Best practices in forensic mental health assessment: Evaluation of competence to stand trial. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
*The required texts will be available/provided to fellows during the fellowship year.