13 Civil Competencies

Forensic Psychology


  1. Eric Y. Drogin PhD, ABPP1,
  2. Curtis L. Barrett PhD, ABPP2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop211013

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Drogin, E. Y. and Barrett, C. L. 2012. Civil Competencies. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 11:II:13.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

  2. 2

    University of Louisville, School of Medicine, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


Forensic evaluation of civil competencies includes the assessment of examinee decision-making abilities in the past, present, or future. Retrospective evaluations may focus on decision making related to advance directives such as wills, living wills, durable powers of attorney, and health-care surrogacies. In the event that the person executing these documents is incapacitated or deceased, the evaluator will rely on techniques developed in the context of psychological autopsy to determine prior capacities at a given point in time. Current examinee decision-making abilities may involve matters such as the capacity to consent to and refuse treatment. Informed-consent issues may not involve the presence of mental illness, in contrast to statutes addressing the right to refuse treatment that may specify those psychiatric diagnoses that qualify as bases for an alleged disability. Future examinee decision-making abilities are addressed by the potential for guardianship, in which an individual or agency may be appointed to preempt the examinee's later right to control his or her living situation, finances, or other personal circumstances. This chapter addresses forensic evaluation approaches to assessing capacities underlying each category of examinee decision making.


  • advance directives;
  • civil competencies;
  • guardianship;
  • informed consent;
  • substituted judgment