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Forensic practitioners' use and perceptions of telepsychology before and during COVID-19.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2021-10-01, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000464
Paula A Bernhard,Lauren McDowell,Gina M Vincent

OBJECTIVE This survey study reports the substantial impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on the use and perceived advantages and disadvantages of telepsychology among forensic practitioners. HYPOTHESES We hypothesized that telepsychology use among forensic practitioners would substantially increase during the pandemic. Additional exploratory research questions examined (a) changes in the frequency, type, nature, and motivation for use of telepsychology; (b) changes in impressions of advantages and disadvantages; and (c) barriers specific to the remote administration of assessment instruments in forensic evaluations. METHOD We disseminated an online survey to one group of forensic practitioners (N = 128; 52% female, 89% White, Mage = 48 years) via various listservs approximately 4 months before COVID-19 shutdowns in the United States and to a second group of forensic practitioners (N = 156; 63% female, 90% White, Mage = 48 years) 1 year later (approximately 8 months after COVID-19 shutdowns began). RESULTS Respondents used telepsychology at a significantly higher rate after the onset of COVID-19 (92%, n = 143) than before its onset (55%, n = 71). Nonusers of telepsychology before COVID-19 identified a number of perceived barriers to its use that were unsubstantiated by telepsychology users both before and during COVID-19 (e.g., rapport issues, confidentiality, and privacy issues). CONCLUSION Self-reported use of telepsychology in forensic practice has nearly doubled since the pandemic began. Forensic practitioners will likely continue to use telepsychology, requiring research to address some of their remaining concerns. This includes research on the validity of forensic assessment instruments administered via telepsychology and research informing best practice guidelines. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).