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Mark Ruiz, PhD, ABPP, is a licensed psychologist at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and coauthor of the Personality Assessment Inventory Interpretive Report for Correctional Settings (PAI-CS). He specializes in competency to stand trial, mental state at the time of offense, violence and sexual recidivism risk assessment, and sentencing mitigation. In today’s blog, PAR Project Director Sierra Iwanicki, PhD, talks to him about the use of the Personality Assessment Inventory™ (PAI®) in forensic evaluations, how he became drawn to the field, and where he thinks forensic psychology is going in the future.


How did you become involved in forensic evaluations?

It happened by accident. During my undergraduate and graduate training, I had brief experiences working with juvenile and adult offenders. I took some workshops about competency and sanity evaluations through the University of South Florida. Following the workshops, some opportunities to do court-ordered evaluations opened in the county I was in and it took off from there.

Why is it helpful to include a measure of personality in these evaluations?

Psychological testing that can address multiple clinical issues in an objective manner adds credibility to any evaluation. Judges, juries, and law enforcement often are not reassured when a clinician makes an opinion based solely on the words that came out of the client’s mouth. “Because he told me so” is not typically a persuasive argument. Psychological testing backed by science tends to be well received in the court of law.

Describe your use of the PAI in forensic evaluations.

I typically use the PAI in risk assessment and sentencing mitigation evaluations. The evidence-based validity scales are important for gauging the client’s approach to the evaluation. The PAI’s broad coverage of mental health and substance use disorders is also helpful in clarifying the diagnostic picture. Additionally, the well-validated Antisocial Features (ANT) and Aggression (AGG) scales are central to opinions of future risk for reoffending and violence.

What makes the PAI unique from other instruments?

The PAI’s ability to measure personality pathology and substance use independently is critical in many forensic evaluations. The growing body of research validating the use of various PAI scales, most notably Negative Impression Management (NIM) and Antisocial Features (ANT), is helpful in generating persuasive opinions in the forensic setting.

How do you see the field of forensic psychology changing in the next 10 years?

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an emphasis on telehealth. As such, technologies to ensure the availability and integrity of psychological testing will be very important. Forensic clinicians who typically work in correctional or criminal justice settings are hampered by a lack of access to facilities and an inability to do face-to-face encounters due to the infection control protocols in place. Even in situations where access is available, many clients do not have the know-how or computer access to take a psychological test remotely. Having the capacity to administer tests via telehealth and to ensure the validity of the results will be crucial for forensic psychology.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in pursuing forensic psychology?

Forensic psychology is like scotch—you must have a taste for it. Attorneys play by a different set of rules than mental health professionals, with the main goal of the legal system being to sharpen conflict to resolve a particular issue. Unconditional positive regard is not often practiced in the courtroom. Psychologists are not typically comfortable with the baseline level of hostility and conflict present in the courtroom.  However, the role of the legal system is to resolve conflicts in pursuit of justice; any psychologist interested in stepping into that forum should be ready for the culture that comes with it.  

What is one thing we can glean from psychological science to improve mental health outcomes during the current collective pandemic crisis?

I think psychology has emphasized the importance of human connection, something that has taken a big hit with the social distancing and protective protocols that come with our response to the pandemic. Efforts to maintain connections during this time are more crucial than ever, particularly for the elderly and for vulnerable populations that have been isolated for extended periods of time.

Related article: Mendeley bibliographies available for the PAI!

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School psychologists are facing a school year full of unknowns. PAR reached out to three different professionals to find out how they are adapting and what advice they have for others as they embark on a very different kind of school year.

Tamara Engle-Weaver, MS

Certified school psychologist, Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 Sensory Impaired Program, Pennsylvania

I have classrooms located in more than one school district. Our districts are creating their own plans for the school year. Some are doing hybrid; some are face-to-face. Given that our classrooms are intermediate unit special education classrooms, they will most likely be operating 5 days per week with face-to-face instruction.

I plan to use a lot of technology this year. I will be trying to utilize virtual methodology as much as I can to reduce the amount of time I am in the classroom. I don’t feel the schools will be encouraging additional bodies to be in the classrooms. I will try to create social skill videos for my students that teachers can present at their leisure.

When you are on an airplane, they tell you to take care of yourself before you help the person you are with. I think that will be critical this year because there will be many students and staff who will be struggling with all aspects of coping with this virus. If we are not in a healthy mental state, we will not be able to help others achieve one either. We all need to do our best to care for ourselves and be compassionate and patient with others.

Maria Isabel Soriano-Lemen, PhD, RPsy
Director, Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services, Philippines

We are doing 100% online classes this year here in the Philippines. I usually ask students to work with a partner to come up with a psychological report that includes these areas of functioning: cognitive, psychological, emotional, behavioral, interpersonal, and interpersonal. So that requires them to work with different tests. I am at a loss at how to teach students to score their test results. I’m also concerned with access to testing materials and how students will be supervised. At this time, I really don’t know what to do. Classes will start in November.

Heather Bravener, DEd

School psychologist, Duncannon, Pennsylvania

At this time, parents have been given the choice to enroll in either the district’s cyber program or attend school for face-to-face instruction 5 days a week. We are a small district with three buildings on the same campus with graduating class sizes of approximately 140. The area’s COVID numbers are currently in the low range, which allows for the reopening of school with face-to-face instruction while implementing recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.

My colleague and I are determining how to best complete assessments with students for the upcoming year in light of the pandemic. Considerations include wearing a mask, use of a plexiglass divider, a pencil for each student to use and then take with them, using a plastic screen to cover the manual, and use of disinfectant wipes. We are also considering the use of digital assessments.

Once schools closed in March, I had to balance completing my job at home while supporting my daughter during remote learning. It was quite a challenge and I can empathize with parents out there who are struggling to assist their child in learning.

As school psychologists, we are in a unique position where our roles may change significantly this fall. Flexibility will be key!

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     We know how important it is to keep your clients, students, and patients safe during these uncertain times. Our two new white papers describe in detail how to administer the IGT2 and the WCST to your clients while staying apart, using the product software and a videoconferencing platform. Available to you completely free, these guidelines allow you to comply with social distancing requirements while continuing to serve those in need.

The IGT2 is a computerized assessment that assists in the evaluation of decision making, while the WCST is used primarily to assess perseveration and abstract thinking. The remote administration guidelines can also be used with the WCST-64These white papers continue our series of resources to help you serve your clients while you’re apart. Our recently released white paper on the RAIT and TOGRA offers similar instructions to help you evaluate intelligence via PARiConnect and a videoconferencing platform.  

  

  

  

  

  

 

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As remote testing becomes a necessity, PAR is working to assist our Customers. We are offering free e-Manuals to Customers who have previously purchased the printed version of manuals published by PAR.

If you currently don’t have access to a PAR-published print manual due to social distancing, we will provide you with free access to an e-Manual version of that same assessment for free. It’s our way of helping our Customers adapt and adjust to providing care remotely.

We’ve also developed a short video on how to use our e-Manuals. The video walks you through downloading and installing an e-Manual, then covers specifics on the convenient features our e-Manuals offer, such as search functions, bookmarks, etc.

To request your free e-Manual, contact Customer Support at 1.800.331.8378 or via e-mail at cs@parinc.com. Please reference your account/previous order information for the manual in question.

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In this time of great uncertainty, the changes to normal routines and practices can cause stress and anxiety. Please know that PAR is still here to serve our Customers and we plan to continue to do so in even broader ways. One of those ways is to provide you with information about the COVID-19 pandemic that is relevant and specific to your needs and the needs of those you serve. We have put up a web page that will be updated with new resources and information as we identify solutions. We hope you find it a valuable resource. 

 

 

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PAR is pleased to announce that we’ve added a page to our website dedicated to our Spanish language products. This page provides a centralized source of information for our Customers looking for assessment products in Spanish.

The page is categorized by construct, each listing the specific products that have Spanish content. It also provides links to those specific product pages where customers can learn more about the product or place an order. We also offer customers a link to a brief, alphabetized listing of all our products that offer Spanish language options, along with the specific items that are available in Spanish. And we’ve included links to our Spanish language brochure and the Language Acculturation Meter page!

 You can find the new web page via this direct link or by typing parinc.com/Spanish-language-products into your browser.

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Are outdated assessment forms cluttering your office? Many Customers are unsure what to do with unused or obsolete test protocols or materials from prior versions of an instrument. Rather than letting them collect dust in a bottom drawer, PAR recommends that you destroy and discard obsolete materials in a secure manner.

If you or your institution doesn’t have access to a secure recycling program, we are happy to help! Simply e-mail custup@parinc.com or call our Customer Support line at 1.800.331.8378 and a specialist will help you obtain a prepaid return label so we may discard the materials through our own corporate recycling program. This program is available only to our Customers in the U.S.

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Earlier this month, the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP) of the American Psychological Association (APA) gave out the very first R. Bob Smith III, PhD, Excellence in Assessment Award.

The award, named after PAR’s Executive Chairman and Founder, R. Bob Smith III, PhD, will be given annually during APA’s national convention to an individual, group, or organization that has advanced the field of scientific assessment in individual psychological functioning, mental health, learning, or social and intellectual development. The award is unique in that recipients will be asked to present a workshop at the APA national convention designed to instruct practitioners in the use of a cutting-edge psychological assessment product or procedure or on a topic clinically relevant to psychological assessment.

This year, the award was given to Thomas Achenbach, PhD. Dr. Achenbach’s wife, Leslie Rescorla, accepted the award on his behalf.

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Last week, during the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Annual Conference in Atlanta, PAR sponsored the Trainers of School Psychology (TSP) poster session. Of 37 submissions to the poster session, three were randomly chosen as winners.

 PAR is proud to announce these three posters as winners of the TSP poster contest!

 

Best practices in enhancing suicidality assessment skills using simulated patients

Stefany Marcus, PsyD, and Alexa Beck, MS, Nova Southeastern University

 

An empirical study of the perceptions of program accreditation by university program coordinators

Alana Smith, Ashley Carlucci, Dr. Jim Deni, Dr. Elizabeth M. Power, St. Rose University


Teaching psychoeducational assessment: Putting evidence-based practice to work

Sandra Glover Gagnon, Hannah Walker, and Haley Black, Appalachian State University

 

 

Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all the participants!

 

 

 

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Wouldn’t it be nice to have a group you could contact to discuss professional assessment products? We thought so too, so PAR has established a discussion group on our LinkedIn page!

Originally started as a group for our University Partnership Program, we’d like to invite all PAR Customers to join our group where you can ask questions about—or share your experiences with—our assessment products. The group is designed to encourage the discussion of academic uses, research pursuits, and assessment instruction using PAR proprietary instruments. Whether you are teaching students how to use assessment products and looking to share ideas with other instructors, using a PAR product and looking to connect with other users, or simply wanting to discuss assessments with other professionals, this group is an open forum for discussion on the use of PAR products. 

Join the discussion! https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8668065