Forensic Psychology Track

Primary Supervisors: 

Kimberly Brown, Ph.D., ABPP, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry
Mary Elizabeth Wood, Ph.D., ABPP, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Amanda Bitting, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


Number of Positions: 1

Salary: $31,200

Term: July 1, 2024 - June 30, 2025

National Matching Service (NMS) Number: 245413



The Forensic Psychology track provides interns with generalist training in clinical psychology with an emphasis on training in the specialty area of forensic psychology. The program is designed for individuals with a background in the assessment, treatment, and research of individuals involved in legal matters (criminal, civil, and administrative law). Core clinical training in forensic psychology is supplemented by neuropsychology assessment, didactics, intervention, and research.  

Training Objectives: 

Consistent with the overall aims of the VUMC-IPP, the primary goal for the forensic internship position is to continue to develop and hone clinical and research skills in keeping with the scientist-practitioner model. Clinical training is presented in a framework of scientific research that underlies practice. Specific training objectives of the Forensic Psychology track include: 

  1. Increase knowledge of the specialty field of forensic psychology and how it differs from general clinical work (e.g., examiner neutrality, informed consent, allegiance to the data rather than the individual, decreased emphasis on empathic therapeutic manner, and transparency, accuracy, and thoroughness in documentation). 

  1. Hone awareness and decision-making abilities related to issues of ethics and diversity specific to forensic psychology (e.g., forensic specialty guidelines), including tension between ethical guidelines and the law. 

  1. Integrate multiple sources of data: records, collateral sources, psychological testing, and interview in writing forensic reports. Explain the basis for opinions and support opinions with data from multiple sources in language appropriate for a legal audience. Identify weakness and limitations of one’s opinions and consider alternative hypotheses. 

  1. Increase knowledge of the assessment of distortion and bias in forensic assessment (including malingering and defensiveness) 

  1. Identify the strengths and weaknesses and increase experience with forensic relevant instruments (FRI) and forensic assessment instruments (FAI) 

  1. Consult with attorneys about findings and testify in court when available. 


Training experiences / structure

The forensic psychology intern will spend 2.0 days per week related to core training in forensic psychology, which includes 1.5 days of forensic assessment and report writing and 0.5 day auditing a class at the Vanderbilt Law School (e.g., Forensic Mental Health Law seminar or Introduction to Criminal Law taught by Professor Christopher Slobogin). The remaining time will be spent as follows: 

  • 1.0 day neuropsychology secondary rotation 
  • 1.0 day engaged in outpatient psychotherapy 
  • 0.5 day engaged in a forensic research project 
  • 0.5 day in didactic training and case presentation  

Forensic Evaluations

Faculty Supervisor(s): Amanda Bitting, Ph.D., Kimberly Brown, Ph.D., ABPP, Mary Elizabeth Wood, Ph.D., ABPP

There are three types of forensic assessments available to interns. These are: 

1) Criminal pretrial forensic evaluations – Evaluations of defendants charged with a criminal offense (misdemeanor or felony) who have been court ordered to receive a forensic mental health evaluation. Evaluations entail assessing competency to stand trial and mental state at the time of the alleged offense (insanity defense). There are opportunities for evaluations both with juveniles (which focus more on treatment issues and placement) and with adults. Evaluations are typically done in a criminal legal setting (e.g., jail or detention). These evaluations provide exposure to severe and acute forms of psychopathology (e.g., psychosis, mood disorders, personality disorders), often untreated in combination with substance use disorders. The focus of the evaluation is on review and integration of records as well as a semi-structured interview, including competency to stand trial assessment measures, and at times, also malingering assessment or brief neurocognitive assessment. There is also the opportunity to provide competency training for defendants found incompetent to stand trial, but potentially restorable to competency, on an outpatient basis. 

2) Annual and Pre-employment evaluations for VA Police Officers – Yearly evaluations of current police officers in the Department of Veterans Affairs in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky to determine if they are experiencing mental health symptoms or personality issues that would make them unsafe or unable to carry out their job duties. Evaluations of post-offer police officer applicants to determine if they have psychopathology or significant personality issues that would make them unsuitable to be a police officer with the VA. These pre-employment evaluations include a standard battery of psychological measures (PAI/MMPI, CPI-434, MMSE, COPE, GARS, and LEC-5). 

3) Pre-employment psychological evaluations – Evaluation of applicants for a 911 dispatch/operator position at the Department of Emergency Communications in Nashville. As a condition of their employment, such individuals are required to participate in a psychological evaluation to rule out psychopathology or personality issues that would compromise their ability to carry out the job duties safely and effectively. These assessments include a standard battery of tests (PAI, MMSE, AUDIT, DAST, GARS, and LEC-5).

The interns are involved in all stages of the evaluation, including the opportunity to testify in court in some instances, as well as observe supervisors testify. The involvement is gradual, with interns first mostly observing the supervisor and ending with the intern conducting most of the evaluation. The supervisor is present for the duration of the evaluations and supervision is hands on. 

For additional information please see: 



Faculty Supervisor(s): Amanda Bitting, Ph.D.

Individual adult outpatient psychotherapy (approximately 5 patients and 1 inpatient group, full day a week) in the department clinic focused on evidence-based practices. The diversity of patient presentations and related empirical treatment models allows the intern to tailor their training experiences to meet their specific goals, although the emphasis will be on treating patients with severe mental illness (SMI), conversion disorder, and/or personality disorders using Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and third-wave cognitive-behavioral modalities (e.g., DBT, ACT).  


Faculty Supervisor(s): Mary Elizabeth Wood, Ph.D.  

Interns are required to engage in a research project during the internship year. At the beginning of the internship year, the intern, working in collaboration with the research supervisor, will select a research project that is aligned with the intern’s research interests and graduate training, and is feasible within the constraints of the internship year and resources of the program. The research project will culminate in a presentation at the end of the year for Academic Psychiatry Symposium in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, where both trainees and faculty members present their research. 

Didactic Training and Case Presentation 

The intern will attend the regularly scheduled case conferences and didactic seminars that are organized as part of the internship experience, to round out their clinical knowledge and experience. They also will have the opportunity to attend Grand Rounds, conferences, and workshops on a variety of topics within psychology.  

Additional Criteria for Selection 

Prior graduate training/experience in forensic psychology is required. Interns should have experience and comfort with severe psychopathology (e.g., psychotic disorders), as well as psychological assessment instruments, including forensically relevant instruments. They should be comfortable conducting assessments in a jail or prison setting (with supervisor present).