Using the MMPI-2 in Forensic Assessment by James N. Butcher, Ph.D., Giselle A. Hass, Psy.D., Roger L. Greene, Ph.D., and Linda D. Nelson, Ph.D., ABPN. (2015) APA Books. Washington, D.C. Hardcover: $79.95; member price: $54.95.
During the past several decades the practice of forensic psychology has greatly expanded and has undergone continuous development in the types of services forensic practitioners provide. Today, forensic psychologists use specialized knowledge and skills to assist in many areas of administrative, criminal and legal proceedings.
As forensic psychologists continue to provide professional expertise in an ever increasing number of legal areas the need for specialized forensic instruments has also grown. One instrument that has withstood the test of time and has been most frequently used by forensic psychologists has been the MMPI-2.
Originally developed in the 1940s to assess adult personality and psycho-pathology, the test has been reliably adapted and used by forensic psychologists in providing sound and convincing empirical support for opinions and testimony in many forensic settings.
The authors of Using the MMPI-2 in Forensic Assessment have succeeded in providing both sophisticated and informative guidance to forensic practitioners using the MMPI-2 in practice. The text incorporates the most recent developments and research into a very user-friendly format that is full of pertinent information.
The book is well organized and flows naturally from test development and administration to uses in specific areas of practice. After providing an overview of the standard scales, the authors offer detailed guidelines in using the test in several specialized areas of forensic practice. All of the authors are very well known and have a great deal of both practical and research experience in the use and development of the MMPI-2.
The book includes chapters describing the use of the test in neuropsychological assessment, personal injury evaluations, workers compensation evaluations, immigration evaluations, custody and child protection evaluations, cases of intimate partner violence and correctional settings as well as in the newer area of forensic practice, immigration evaluations.
The chapter on using the MMPI-2 in immigration evaluations particularly demonstrates the desire of the authors to include the most timely information, as this area of specialization has been a relatively new field of forensic practice.
In addition, the book includes a very short chapter devoted to the MMPI-2 RF test. The 15-page chapter is devoted entirely to describing the various shortcomings and limitations of the instrument. The recitation of MMPI-2 RF test failures leaves little doubt about the author’s view regarding the very limited utility of this test in forensic cases.
Notably, the book also covers two very important and sometimes overlooked issues with using the MMPI-2 in the forensic contexts. The two areas are cultural factors in assessment and using computer-based interpretations of the MMPI-2 in report writing and testimony.
In the chapter discussing the implications of using the MMPI-2 with people of different cultural backgrounds, the authors highlight specific recommendations that allow the clinician to make an informed decision regarding test administration and interpretation.
For example, the authors recommend that the clinician assess both the ethnic identity of the client as well as his or her level of acculturation. The chapter includes examples of additional standardized tests that are helpful for this purpose as well as how to incorporate cultural factors in individualized test interpretation. This area of inquiry is particularly important as the population involved in the legal system changes over time and the MMPI-2 becomes translated into increasing numbers of languages.
The authors also address the use of computer-based interpretations in court cases. Although this chapter is relatively short, the authors include a helpful case example to illustrate how to use computer-generated interpretations in forensic cases.
Given the number of areas covered, the book is brief with only 274 pages, not including the references. The relative brevity is both an advantage and a disadvantage. For example, the chapter dealing with scale interpretation could have been greatly expanded to include much more detailed interpretive strategies relevant to each forensic setting.
The authors acknowledge that only a summary was provided to allow the reader easy access to aspects of the test discussed in other chapters. While the authors tried to cover as much of the relevant material as possible, they also frequently mention that numerous other books and articles are available to the reader for additional information detailing best practices in using the MMPI-2. This makes the book less suitable as a primary text for graduate courses on forensic evaluations and better suited to serve as a reference text.
On the other hand, perhaps the best value of this book is the integrative approach that distills and summarizes the most important and relevant considerations in using the test while conducting forensic evaluations. This makes the book very useful to the busy practicing forensic psychologist who is looking for a practical reference tool.
Although the authors point out that the text is meant for the advanced practitioner, the book is so well written and accessible that even early career psychologists, researchers and students will find the book a welcome addition to their professional libraries.
Alex Yufik, J.D., Psy.D., is a board certified forensic psychologist and a licensed attorney. He obtained his law degree from Villanova University School of Law and his doctorate in clinical psychology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In his private practice, he conducts forensic evaluations and testifies in criminal, civil and administrative law cases. His email address is: Yufik@lawpsychologist.com.