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Graduate School of Professional Psychology
Forensic

MAFP Courses

Sample course listing only.

Below are MAFP courses typically offered at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology. This list is not exhaustive, nor is it meant to be a list of required courses. Courses and course descriptions often change. Students are provided current course lists in their student Handbook when they matriculate.

Welcome to Forensic Psychology boot camp! In your first year in the program, MAFP students go from having generally little clinical experience to having a solid working knowledge of clinical theory and how it applies to the field of forensic mental health.

Below you will find descriptions of the principal courses first‐year students
use to supplement their field placement work. Each course in the sequence is designed to enhance your understanding and mastery of the core Foundational and Functional Competencies upon which the program is based.

Get ready — clinical training in forensic psychology is challenging, exciting, and life‐changing.

First-Year

Professionalism and Practice I (First‐Year Practicum)

What are the components of a risk assessment? What is it really like behind bars in a women's prison? Who are the key players in a parental rights and responsibility hearing, and what happens after the courtroom doors are closed? How do forensic psychologists work effectively with registered sex offenders, juveniles in diversion, and felons court‐ordered to substance abuse treatment ‐‐ and stay safe doing it? How reliable is"eye witness" testimony, and why does it matter who is on a jury, any way?

The 3‐quarter first‐year Professionalism and Practice sequence helps students orient themselves to the MAFP program and begin the process of developing their professional, ethical, and clinical skills. Serving as a supplement to students' academic and field placement experiences, these courses assist students in making the linkages between their academic materials and their field placement experiences. Within a small group setting, students gain a broader awareness and understanding of the interaction between psychology and the legal and criminal justice systems and clarify their roles as evaluators and consultants to attorneys, judges, and criminal justice personnel. Ethical and clinical considerations within the legal and criminal justice settings will be explored. In addition, students will address the cultural issues impacting their work with this population.

The first quarter serves as an introduction to working with forensic populations, including practice standards, self‐care, transference/countertransference dynamics, and systemic issues. Students will get a sense of the depth and breadth of forensic practice through courtroom observation and a prison tour.

In the second quarter, students continue their discussion of the interface between psychology and the law. Emphasis will be on cultural/diversity issues that impact clinical and forensic practice. By the end of this quarter students should be familiar with terms such as cultural competency and diversity and able to integrate these into a coherent theoretical framework, as well as apply them to clinical forensic work.

In the third and final quarter of the first‐year sequence, the emphasis shifts to forensic assessment. Students will be exposed to a variety of forensic assessment tools as well as methods of conducting a forensic assessment. Professionals from the law enforcement and psychological communities will also offer their perspectives on assessment.

Interviewing and Theories of Psychotherapy

The practice of therapy is at once an art, and a science. The process of becoming a therapist is both a process of learning and of experiencing. No one is born knowing how to ask questions in a Clinical Intake, or what interventions might work with a client who is suffering from panic attacks, or what to do if a client asks a personal question in session. This "high anxiety/low stakes" course provides an overview of foundational interviewing and therapy concepts so that fledgling practitioners can try out their clinical "wings" in a classroom and small group environment. Emphasis is placed on experiential exercises designed to assist students in learning and practicing basic techniques essential for effective, ethical, and culturally‐aware clinical work and report writing.

Issues in Forensic Psychology I: Forensic Mental Health  Basics

You've read the articles, watched the news, and seen the high‐profile interviews. You KNOW forensic psychology is the field for you. There's only one problem . . . you're not entirely sure what forensic psychology IS. Fear not. In this course you will learn the ropes of "real world" forensic practice (forget CSI!) from the professionals who do it for a living. Become fluent in the language of the field, understand the structure and workings of the American criminal and civil legal systems (with an emphasis on Colorado law), including expert testimony, rules of evidence, and the neuropsychology of violence and aggression, and start taking the first steps toward finding the professional niche that's right for you. Other substantive areas of study include polygraph and plethysmograph testing, trial consultation and inequities within the justice system.

Issues in Forensic Psychology II: Law Enforcement & Correctional Psychology

This course focuses on the application of forensic mental health concepts to correctional settings (jails, prisons, and other detention facilities) and law enforcement (including police work and investigations on the local, state, and national levels). Students will understand the basics of context‐specific assessment and offender management, as well as the dynamics of working in the correctional system. Special topics include working with incarcerated individuals with developmental differences, women, and those with terminal illnesses; malingering detection; and hostage negotiation.

Issues in Forensic Psychology III

Forensic psychologists work in a world of risk assessment, management, and prevention. Suicide, homicide, interpersonal violence, child abuse, and domestic terrorism are all unfortunate and tragic realities in the field of forensic mental health. This course shows students the tools for recognizing and addressing "red flag" behavior in different settings and with a variety of populations.

Group Interventions

This course exposes students to basic elements of the group intervention process, ethical and professional issues unique to group work, and key concepts and techniques of group therapy/intervention. Specific learning objectives include: attaining an understanding of the theory and functioning of groups; gaining knowledge and practice in essential group therapy skills; identifying integral points and considerations for working with various forensic client populations; and developing an awareness of one's own impact on group contexts.

Statistics

Hypothesis: Ice cream causes drowning. Mastery of this course will enable to students to understand what types of errors could lead to this conclusion, and will provide a basic grounding in descriptive and inferential statistics. General topics to be addressed include parametric vs. nonparametric statistics, use of SPSS and interpretation of output, statistical assumptions, types of distributions, and basic statistical procedures. Check your fear of math at the door; this class is largely conceptual and requires only basic mathematical skills.

Research Methods

Recent news stories have highlighted the experiences of defendants who have spent years in prison and later been exonerated through new DNA analysis. In some cases, the defendant's conviction was based on flawed assumptions and erroneous conclusions. How and why do errors like these occur in forensic contexts? How can practitioners and researchers use empirical data to understand forensic evidence and draw more accurate conclusions? Designed to increase students' understanding of the scientific method and research methodologies, this course provides a review and critique of psychological research, epistemology, design and method, with a focus on forensic and clinical populations. This course will assist students in developing the critical thinking and analysis skills necessary to debunk statistical fallacies and make sense of both the research literature and the evidence they will encounter as practitioners.

Issues in Measurement

In this course, students will apply their hard‐won critical thinking and analytical skills (see above!) to psychological and forensic assessment, with an emphasis on validity, reliability and issues of standardization. This course focuses on the measurement of different variables in clinical and research settings. Lectures will cover the historical bases of assessment and measure design and will also highlight contemporary approaches to testing. The course, with its lecture and discussion format, will provide exposure to recent social criticisms and ethical concerns surrounding psychological testing. The importance of sensitivity to the needs of special, or underrepresented, populations will be an integral component of the material presented. The objective of this course is to provide students with the tools and information necessary to make informed and ethical testing choices in their chosen practice settings.

Psychopathology and Diagnosis

This course looks at our understanding of the continuum of mental health through different conceptual lenses, including the DSM and other ways of capturing individual experiences in this area. Includes a review of principal categories of clinical disorders as well as those most frequently seen in forensic settings. Students will recognize the strengths and limitations of formal diagnosis as a tool in clinical practice, as well as the importance of seeing the person behind the label. Emphasis will be placed on understanding mental well being in context, taking into account cultural relevancy and the evolution of diagnoses over time.

Trauma and Crisis Intervention

What does it mean to be a survivor? What role does trauma play in forensic work? And how can clinicians in forensic settings best address the unique and universal issues facing those who have lived through these experiences? This course is designed to provide students with an overview of the key issues associated with trauma and crisis intervention, including how to conceptualize trauma and different approaches to treatment. Additionally, the course will address forensic and other special issues associated with the field of trauma.

The Psychology of Criminal Behavior

Why do killers kill? This course presents an analysis of high‐profile criminals and showcases the empirical and theoretical data to support prevailing conceptualizations of criminality, including biological, psychological, social, and environmental causes and correlates of violent and criminal behavior. Violence and criminal behavior will be viewed as an evolving construct that may begin in childhood and endure through adolescence and into adulthood. Contemporary issues including terrorism, racial profiling, and gender debates will also be highlighted. Students will be provided with the tools necessary to determine future directions for policy, prevention, and treatment that may help ameliorate the causes and outcomes of crime and violence.

Conflict Resolution

This course will examine five ways of resolving conflicts that are relevant to forensic psychology: force, litigation, psychological consultation, negotiation, and science/critical thinking. Advantages and disadvantages of each method will be discussed (hint: litigation is NOT always the best solution), and situations and strategies well‐suited for each will be identified. There will be some emphasis on status and gender as identity goals. Students will practice intervening in interpersonal conflicts, and develop some awareness of their own style in conflict and their own style in intervention.

Second-Year

By the start of your second year of the program, MAFP students have a solid grounding in the basics of forensic theory and practice. Now things really get exciting, with coursework in a variety of applied topics ranging from assessment to substance abuse.

Like "hands on" forensic work? Read on . . .

Professionalism and Practice II (Second‐Year Practicum)

This 3‐quarter sequence is designed to be the capstone experience of forensic training, with students working collaboratively toward reaching developmental goals as they make the transition to mental health practitioner. Course goals include: Enhancing understanding of theory and practice in the field of psychology and, specifically, the forensic arena; applying knowledge gained throughout the program to practical clinical situations, ethical dilemmas, and "real world" dynamics; understanding the importance of
professionalism, collaboration, and integrity in the pursuit of a career in this field; and allowing an opportunity for reflection upon and integration of clinical and didactic experiences during the course of training.

Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology

Discussion of ethical and legal conflicts and dilemmas as a psychologist within the legal system, and consideration of ways to resolve such conflicts, including standards applicable to the science and practice of forensic psychology and the role of the expert witness.

Cognitive Assessment

This course teaches clinicians‐in‐training to apply their theoretical backgrounds (in test construction, test use, and various psychological orientations) to assessment problems that involve subjects' cognitive functioning. The role of intelligence in understanding why people behave as they do will be explored, along with the legal issues that interface with cognitive functioning, including testamentary capacity, testimonial competence, and waivers of Miranda rights. Current cognitive assessment measures will be emphasized, along with forensic assessment and Bayes' Theorem.

Self Report Assessment

The purpose of this course is to provide a solid foundation for approaching objective personality assessment in a considered, effective, and ethical way. It will cover the underpinnings of objective assessment. It will also provide working knowledge of psychological tests, specifically the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI‐2), the most widely used personality inventory in the United States, and the MMPI‐A (adolescent version), as well as the NEW MMPI‐2‐RF. Students will learn to interpret the MMPI through practice protocols. Students will also learn about the PAI, MCMI, TOMM and other objective measures. The course will emphasize the forensic use of objective assessment through relevant case examples. This foundation will provide an appreciation of the issues and techniques involved in objective personality assessment in psychology.

Lifespan Development and the Cultural Context

This course is meant to familiarize students with major concepts, theories, and research related to normal lifespan development (infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood). During this course, students will explore the influence of culture on life span development and will be encouraged to analyze the influence of cultural context on relevant areas of the human development process through self-reflection.

Projective Assessment

Take a moment to look at the floor beneath you. Do you see a pattern in the wood, tile, or carpet? Look at the ceiling, or the sky ‐‐ what shapes and images can you find? What do you see? More importantly, what does it all mean? In all likelihood, absolutely nothing. However, there are legitimate, well‐researched, and valid ways of tapping into projective material ‐‐ ways of understanding how individuals process, integrate, and respond to the world that may not be readily available through other means. This course integrates the interpretation of narrative material (and other responses to standardized, ambiguous stimuli) with the assessment of individuals. Students will learn to administer and interpret Early Memories and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). Over‐interpretive pitfalls will be identified and avoided. There will be a focus on producing a professionally written, clinically sound assessment report.

Socio-Cultural Issues in Forensic Psychology

John Culkin said, "We don't know who discovered water, but we're certain it wasn't a fish." To the practice of forensic psychology, each of us brings his or her own set of individual experiences, beliefs, and views on life. We bring our highest selves: our passion, our hard work, our integrity, and our most noble dreams. We also, invariably, bring our worst selves: our "blind spots," our anxieties, our misconceptions, and our prejudice. As practitioners in a field trusted to explore the limits of human potential and human frailty, we recognize that the costs of ignorance in the arena of cultural awareness is unacceptably high. Rarely, however, do we have the opportunity to take a step back and explore the dynamics of oppression within society, within our profession, and within ourselves—to "see the water," as it were. The goal of this course is to begin the process of reflection and grow in our ability to tolerate ambiguity around issues of profound importance to our clinical practices and personal lives; to question preexisting understandings about how life "is" or "is not"; and to consider with humility, respect, and an open mind perspectives different from our own.

Mental Health Law

The goal of this introductory Mental Health Law course is to provide students with a general understanding of the laws impacting the field of mental health, including those involving professional responsibility and ethics; competency issues; court‐ordered evaluations and testimony; placement; the rights of differently‐abled persons; and defenses based on mental state. Course Objectives include assisting students in locating, understanding, and interpreting laws relevant to the mental health practitioner; recognizing potential legal and ethical dilemmas faced in forensic practice; and applying the principles of mental health law to offer the highest standard of care in their clinical practices.

Evaluation and Treatment of the Juvenile Offender

This course examines the unique opportunities and challenges facing practitioners who work with children in forensic settings. Includes an overview of the juvenile justice system, child development theories, and intervention strategies, as well as practical information about working with children, parents, and the broader justice system as a whole.

Psychopathology, Evaluation, and Treatment of the Adult Offender

Psychological theories related to etiology, development and prediction of violent crime; types of intervention possible within the criminal justice setting. Topic areas may include special offender populations (e.g. sexual offender, offenders with developmental disabilities or those classified as mentally retarded, female offenders).

Cognitive Behavioral Interventions

Considered the "gold standard" of treatment in many forensic contexts, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) covers a broad skills set applicable in a variety of treatment settings. This dynamic course addresses the principal theories, techniques, and research relating to CBT, focusing on assessment, case conceptualization and intervention approaches within a forensic setting. Includes an overview of Motivational Interviewing, Acceptance and Commitment Theory (ACT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and other applied topics.

Substance Abuse

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates, the use of illicit drugs and alcohol impacts tens of millions of Americans and costs taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars in related costs on an annual basis. Unsurprisingly, substance use and abuse issues play a significant role in forensic mental health practice, as well. The objectives of this course are to provide an introduction to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of substance abuse and related disorders; to become familiar with the dynamics
and etiology of substance abuse; to identify psychometric tools used in the evaluation of substance abuse; and to review evidence‐based treatment methods and their application to forensic populations.

Criminal Evaluations

This course will provide an overview of criminal assessment topics, with an emphasis on the literature, theory, procedure, and tools, including criminal violence, risk assessment, legal competencies, and criminal responsibility.