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Legal Standards in the Practice of Forensic Psychology

Updated on August 22, 2014

Legal guidelines, specialty guidelines, and ethics codes assist psychologists of all specialties in maintaining legally appropriate, morally sound, and adequately responsive services to their clients. These forms of guidance allow us to provide confidentiality to the maximum legal extent possible, protect other civil and human rights, and ensure that services are reliable and credible (American Psychological Association, 2012).

They also ensure that any diagnoses or assessment given are backed by the proper education and training required to be considered in expert in that area (American Psychological Association, 2012). This limits uninformed and poorly trained professionals from rendering diagnoses, assessments, or testimonies that may have an adverse impact on the person under their care (American Psychological Association, 2012).

The California Board of Psychology updated their regulations on continuing education for psychologists in January of 2013. According to the California Board of Psychology (2013), psychologists renewing their license for the first time must accrue continuing education credit for the number of months that the initial license was in effect.

Additional requirements include limiting independent learning to 75% or less towards the requirement, and only giving credit for continuing education that occurred during the term of the initial license (California Board of Psychology, 2013).

These requirements drastically expand upon the American Psychology Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Codes of Conduct (2012), standard 2, paragraph 2.03, which simply states that psychologists must continuously develop and maintain their competence.

The expansion by the California Board of Psychology helped to clarify exactly how much continuing education is required in order to renew a license, and set limits on how much of each type of education (independent versus other types) is acceptable to meet the requirement. Although this is not quite a conflict in itself, a psychologist practicing in one state in which requirements are not as detailed would have to know and meet these additional requirements if they wished to obtain a license and begin practicing on a permanent basis in California.

The simple way in which to reconcile this conflict is to know all of the requirements for both obtaining a license and renewing it in the state in which you wish to practice well in advance of attempting to obtain a license. This would give the psychologist ample time to research accepted sources of required education so as to avoid a lapse in license.


American Psychological Association. (2012). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.

California Board of Psychology. (2013). Continuing Education Requirements. Retrieved from


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