A forensic psychologist is ‘unfit’ to be a forensic psychologist
A forensic psychiatrist is ‘not qualified’ to diagnose mental health problems in people, a new job description has been written in the UK.
In an official warning, the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) said forensic psychologists do not have the necessary qualifications to diagnose the mental health needs of a person.
The warning follows a series of articles in the press by the Guardian and the New York Times that have highlighted the lack of training and training quality in forensic psychologists, and the lack on the part of the profession to address mental health issues.
A survey of more than 4,000 former and current forensic psychologists found that only 18 per cent were able to provide a “proper assessment of mental health”.
The report found that most of the forensic psychologists surveyed were working in small offices with limited supervision and did not have experience in assessing people in a psychiatric setting.
Only 17 per cent of the former and present forensic psychologists who responded to the survey had “advanced their training in psychiatric assessment”.
It also found that the majority of forensic psychologists working in UK mental health services do not know how to assess mental health.
“There are no forensic psychologists trained to diagnose psychiatric illness,” said the report.
More than half the respondents said they were unsure of the clinical meaning of “mental illness”, and many were unsure whether or not to diagnose or treat a mental illness.
According to the NMHC, more than 70 per cent reported that they had not been trained to provide mental health assessment, and only half of those surveyed said they knew how to properly assess people for mental health conditions.
It said the lack in training was the result of “a lack of knowledge, skills and expertise” within the profession.
“The vast majority of those who report having had mental health assessments do not receive appropriate training,” the NMCH said.
“Most do not carry out assessments at all, and some do not conduct the assessments at a proper level.”
The NMHC has been calling for a change to the way forensic psychologists work for more than a decade, but the issue has been largely ignored.
After the Guardian article on the lacklustre performance of forensic therapists, the British Psychological Society, which represents forensic psychologists in England and Wales, called on the Government to set up a new national body for forensic psychologists.
Its executive director, Mark Bevan, said the Government had failed to address the problem of mental illness in the profession and had not done enough to help people diagnosed with mental health disorders.
But he said the NMHC report showed that the profession needed to address its own issues and take responsibility for its own role in addressing mental health concerns.
Bevan said the new National Forensic Psychiatry Centre, which will be launched in the coming weeks, will help address mental illness, including mental health challenges.
He said it was important to set standards in the way the profession assesses mental health, and work to improve the quality of training.
“It is vital that our profession is seen as a service to society and not simply a profession to profit from the wellbeing of individuals,” he said.
Other professions have been criticised for failing to recognise mental health care needs, including a recent report by the British Association of Nursing.
Psychiatrists and psychologists also face a challenge when it comes to mental health and addiction.
Experts are concerned that the lack and lack of awareness of mental disorders in forensic psychiatry will put patients at risk, and make it difficult to get support from other professionals, particularly those in the field.
Professors of psychology, psychiatrists and social work have been urged to raise the profile of the field and provide training in the skills needed to assess and treat mental health difficulties in the future.
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