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Graduate School of Professional Psychology
Denver FIRST

Research Initiatives

Denver FIRST is a leader in original and invited research in forensic mental health. Faculty research interests are broad, but most research centers on practical applications of evidence-based or promising practices.  Faculty also serve in various capacities for national research initiatives, including acting as journal editors, journal reviewers, and conference reviewers. Finally, Denver FIRST faculty produce a great deal of scholarly work in addition to the traditional academic journal review process; this has included authoring books, book chapters, and other related projects.

Original research

Current faculty research projects include:

  • Reliability, validity and quality of forensic mental health evaluations
  • Training and certification of forensic mental health evaluators
  • Decision-making in forensic evaluations
  • Supervision and care of persons acquitted by legal insanity
  • Effectiveness of outpatient and jail-based competency restoration interventions
  • Attitudes toward violence risk in mentally ill offenders from relevant disciplines (mental health, judiciary, law enforcement, corrections)
  • Effectiveness of screenings and interventions for incarcerated populations with potential traumatic brain injuries

Graduate students are involved in research in a number of ways. In addition to assisting faculty with the above research projects, students conduct their own original research with assistance of Denver FIRST.

Current student research projects include:

  • Attitudes of lay persons and probation officers toward pro-social traits in adolescent offenders
  • The effects of defendant gender, sexual orientation, and mental illness on juror decision-making

 Invited research and program evaluation

Denver FIRST faculty are available to consult or partner with agencies interested in conducting research in their areas of expertise. Common requests include program evaluation, consultations for creating a research design, or utilizing DU’s Institutional Review Board process. Recent projects include:

  • Program evaluation of the College Gateway Program at Red Rocks Community College
  • Institutional Review Board and program evaluation for Denver City and County’s initiative with chronically homeless offenders

Other scholarly work

  • Principles of Forensic Report Writing (2013) by Michael Karson and Lavita Nadkarni. Principles of Forensic Report Writing explores the psychology of report writing, including the motivations of readers and writers, communicative and performative concerns, and the cognitive science that applies to the process. The book addresses foundational principles rather than mechanics and how these feed back to the assessment process. Emphasis is placed throughout on the problem of applying general research, nomothetic tests, and generally useful actuarials to specific cases. Available at bookstores and online distributors.

In short, Denver FIRST faculty conduct high-quality forensic mental health research at the University of Denver, an exceptional research and training institution. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions about our forensic research at 303-871-7910 or DenverFIRST@du.edu. Thank you!