Forensic practitioners' use and perceptions of telepsychology before and during COVID-19

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Infectious Disease | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychology | Telemedicine | Virus Diseases


OBJECTIVE: This survey study reports the substantial impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the use and perceived advantages and disadvantages of telepsychology among forensic practitioners.

HYPOTHESES: We hypothesized that telepsychology use among forensic practitioners would substantially increase during the pandemic. Additional exploratory research questions examined (a) changes in the frequency, type, nature, and motivation for use of telepsychology; (b) changes in impressions of advantages and disadvantages; and (c) barriers specific to the remote administration of assessment instruments in forensic evaluations.

METHOD: We disseminated an online survey to one group of forensic practitioners (N = 128; 52% female, 89% White, Mage = 48 years) via various listservs approximately 4 months before COVID-19 shutdowns in the United States and to a second group of forensic practitioners (N = 156; 63% female, 90% White, Mage = 48 years) 1 year later (approximately 8 months after COVID-19 shutdowns began).

RESULTS: Respondents used telepsychology at a significantly higher rate after the onset of COVID-19 (92%, n = 143) than before its onset (55%, n = 71). Nonusers of telepsychology before COVID-19 identified a number of perceived barriers to its use that were unsubstantiated by telepsychology users both before and during COVID-19 (e.g., rapport issues, confidentiality, and privacy issues).

CONCLUSION: Self-reported use of telepsychology in forensic practice has nearly doubled since the pandemic began. Forensic practitioners will likely continue to use telepsychology, requiring research to address some of their remaining concerns. This includes research on the validity of forensic assessment instruments administered via telepsychology and research informing best practice guidelines.


telepsychology, forensic psychology, videoconferencing, COVID-19

DOI of Published Version



Bernhard PA, McDowell L, Vincent GM. Forensic practitioners' use and perceptions of telepsychology before and during COVID-19. Law Hum Behav. 2021 Oct;45(5):468-480. doi: 10.1037/lhb0000464. PMID: 34871018. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Law and human behavior

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID