Forensic Psychiatry is a subspeciality of Psychiatry. It involves the interface between psychiatry and the law.

What do Forensic Psychiatrists do?

  • Medico-legal evaluations of individuals in criminal, civil, probate, occupational, military, immigration and other cases.
  • Employment.  A Forensic Psychiatrist may conduct a Fitness for Duty, Threat Assessment or Return to Work evaluation for employers if a psychiatric condition is a concern for coworkers and the employee.
  • Treatment of forensic populations such as those in jail, prison, and state hospitals. A Treatment Plan for someone who is incarcerated is Forensic in that it is admissible in parole and other legal hearings.

How many Forensic Psychiatrists are there in the United States?

Only about 3% of all physicians Board-Certified in (general) Psychiatry are also Board-Certified in Forensic Psychiatry[1]. There are about 2,387 Board Certified Forensic Psychiatrists in the United States, not including those who took the exam 10/2019 (the exam is only offered every 2 years). 2019 statistics will be reported in the 2019 Annual Report, not yet released by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Board-Certification in Forensic Psychiatry has been available since 1994. Of 2,387, some are retired or not in active practice.

What are the Qualifications and Education of a Forensic Psychiatrist?

I suggest you read “How do you know if a Forensic Psychiatrist has Appropriate Credentials?” on this FAQ page which answers this question.

Is Forensic Psychiatry the same as other Forensic Expert Witnesses–like Ballistics Experts and Forensic Accountants?
Yes, Forensic Psychiatry describes an area of expertise that includes forensic training which is in addition to Clinical Psychiatry (patient treatment).

Other forensic fields include forensic pathology (autopsies), forensic toxicology, forensic dentistry, forensic accounting, forensic psychology and many others.


[1] Psychiatrists not Board-Certified in Forensic Psychiatry have not passed the Board exam. They may have completed Fellowship training but not yet taken or passed the Boards. Some Forensic Psychiatrists were “grandfathered in” at an earlier time, meaning they passed the Boards but did not receive special Fellowship training.  There are psychiatrists who present themselves as Forensic Psychiatrists who are not Board-Certified in Forensic Psychiatry, claiming they are qualified to render a forensic conclusion by virtue of experience or expertise.  Attorneys should confirm they will qualify as an Expert Witness, and always check the Board-Certification status and background of any Forensic Psychiatrist they are considering retaining. That includes claims of Board-Certification in General Psychiatry or subspecialty.