Aggression toward forensic evaluators: a statewide survey

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

*Aggression; Expert Testimony; Forensic Psychiatry; Humans; Massachusetts; Questionnaires




There is an increasing body of literature regarding violence toward mental health professionals in clinical settings, but little is known about the frequency of assaults on forensic evaluators. Forensic evaluators play a very different role in the evaluee's life than do treating clinicians. This study examined the incidence of aggressive behavior specifically directed toward forensic clinicians. Psychologists and psychiatrists (n = 190) in Massachusetts were surveyed regarding their experience of verbal threats, harassment/intimidation (H/I), and physical assault. Respondents were asked about the most distressing incident (MDI) in their forensic practices. This study found no more risk of aggressive behavior in the forensic context than the nonforensic context and concluded that forensic clinicians' concerns about their safety may be somewhat misplaced. In the 76 reported MDIs, physical injury was minimal, yet emotional distress was pronounced. Training programs and work settings should validate the legitimacy of these reactions, and help clinicians to cope with their emotional reactions.

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Citation: J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2006;34(2):231-9.

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