Embarking on a Forensic Practice

Psychiatric Times, Vol 33 No 2, Volume 33, Issue 2

There is a lot to think about when starting a private practice-and yet more to consider when embarking on a forensic psychiatry practice. A review of a classic book that written by a giant in the field.


Developing a Forensic Practice: Operations and Ethics for Experts

by William H. Reid, MD, MPH; New York: Routledge, 2013
308 pages • $145.00 (hardcover)

Reviewed by Helen M. Farrell, MD

There is a lot to think about when starting a private practice-and yet more to consider when embarking on a forensic psychiatry practice. Complexities occur when blending psychiatry with the law. This often produces significant inertia for the most accomplished clinicians, not to mention junior mental health practitioners starting out in their careers. Providers typically feel overwhelmed by the process and often have no idea where to even begin when it comes to private practice.

-Helen M. Farrell, MD

Thankfully, a number of resources put into perspective the obstacles and benefits of forging ahead in the field of forensics. For example, the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law (AAPL), which comprises professionals with expertise in mental health law, is well known for its thought leaders. I have long considered the presidents of this organization along with its numerous members-both in the academic and in the private sectors-as models of success and esteem who offer important mentorship to burgeoning careers.

Past AAPL president, William H. Reid, MD, MPH, ranks among the greatest of these mentors. His book, Developing a Private Practice: Operations and Ethics for Experts, is a tremendous resource for any mental health professional embarking on a forensic practice. This book is a pragmatic tool for professionals who are either starting out or continuing work in private practice.

Dr Reid thoughtfully explores a range of topics: vocabulary for forensics, the lawyer-expert relationship, evaluations, affidavits, depositions, marketing, ethics, and fees and billing. He even goes so far as to provide extensive appendices in which he shares sample forms, letters, and reports. Describing this robust section as highly useful would be a dramatic understatement.

Developing a Private Practice transforms the invariably daunting and confusing experience of starting a forensic practice into one that is manageable . . . and quite possibly, even enjoyable. Dr Reid’s focused approach breaks down a seemingly insurmountable task into one that is attainable and even desirable. His book has all the hallmarks of an excellent resource-practical, thoughtful, straightforward and, above all else, extremely valuable.

This article was originally posted 12/17/2015 and has since been updated.


Dr Farrell is Forensic Psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Instructor at Harvard Medical School, Boston.