Stress and the Forensic Psychiatrist:A Pilot Study

L. H. Strasburger, P. M. Miller, M. L. Commons, T. G. Gutheil and J. LaLlave,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 31(1): 018-026, 2003.
What are the sources of perceived occupational stress, and how troublesome are they to forensic psychiatrists? To examine these questions 1,800 90-item questionnaires were sent to the membership of AAPL. The questions explored what experiences forensic psychiatrists found most stressful and the degree of stress experienced. Three hundred seventy-two questionnaires were returned. On average, individuals rated the stress in their overall forensic practices as relatively low. Certain situations, however, were found to be highly stressful. Five of the most stressful aspects of forensic practice in this sample were: (1) fear of not being able to defend an opinion during cross-examination (63%); (2) fear of the prospect of disclosure of one's own content-related personal history (53%); (3) working with short deadlines (49%); (4) testifying while physically ill (43%); (5) stress from a retaining attorney's attempts to coerce an opinion (43%). An awareness of these matters may give guidance to people who are considering becoming forensic psychiatrists and may facilitate the management of stress.