Dr. Rabin kindly agreed to being interviewed by Forensic Nexus to share his career path. We asked him the following questions:
What is your area of expertise/forensic discipline?
I am a Forensic Psychologist. I have a PhD in Clinical Psychology with specialty certifications in forensic psychology and forensic neuropsychology. I conduct evaluations for criminal defendants and civil litigants. With the former, I will evaluate fitness to stand trial, mental state or sanity at the time of the alleged offenses, ability to understand and competently waive Miranda rights, assess sexual dangerousness, evaluate for involuntary commitment, or whatever referral questions the courts or attorneys may pose, while with the latter, I evaluate the degree of mental distress or defect and whether it appears related to a specific act or incident, or whatever issues the courts or lawyers may raise. I also serve as a medical expert for social security, evaluating medical evidence and advising the administrative law judges on whether the person’s mental problems rise to the level necessary to meet the social security listings for disability. In child custody cases, I evaluate the families and significant others and opine to the court as to what custodial arrangements appear to be in the child’s best interest.
Where do you work as a forensic scientist?
I served the Circuit Court of Cook County, Il, as a senior staff psychologist and then assistant director of psychology at the Psychiatric Institute, the court’s forensic psychiatry and psychology division. I am now semi-retired, working within both the Federal and State court systems, and as an expert for Social Security disability hearings.
What is your typical work day like?
When I worked full-time, I would typically see one to three cases a day, testify in court, conduct psychological and neuropsychological testing, and write reports. We saw most of the defendants at our facility, which within the court administration building and attached to the jail, though we had to go into the jail from time to time if the defendant was too disturbed to be transported. Now I rarely work more than one or two days a week, but still perform the same actions. I and my assistant, who also has a doctorate in psychology routinely go into Cook County Jail or other correctional facilities and examine defendants within the facility. On other days, I work at home, reviewing records, scoring tests, and preparing reports.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
I was not so much inspired as I drifted into it, as I had been working in the alcoholism field, and was running a court-diversion program for DUI offenders. When that program was closed, I was offered a position at the Psychiatric Institute by the director, who had overseen the diversion program. I found that I both enjoyed the work and had a knack for it. I had always been interested in how we tick, and fascinated by the way different people see the same thing, and majored in psychology in college. I went to graduate school in psychology, and discovered I really enjoyed using testing to pull out what was happening with the patient, and then in my internship, I had many opportunities to hone my interviewing and diagnostic skills, so I had a good background for forensic psychology. Once I joined the staff, I attached myself to the experienced staff and attended as many seminars as I could, because back then the schools never heard of forensic psychology and there were no courses available in most locations.
What is your academic background?
I have a PhD in clinical psychology from Loyola University of Chicago. I also obtained a masters degree in clinical psychology from Roosevelt University and a bachelor of arts degree with a major in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The challenge of the courtroom contests, and trying to defend your opinion and fend off the cross-examiner’s attempt to attach your position. I enjoy chess, bridge, and other completive challenges, and in many ways court testimony is an ultimate contest with real stakes. I also enjoy figuring out the puzzle each case represents, and trying to determine what is really going on with the examinee when they either do not know themselves or are purposefully trying to deceive you.
What suggestions do you have for students that are interested in pursuing a career in your profession?
Focus on testing in graduate school, as that it the most important attribute that forensic psychologists bring to the table, our unique contribution. Other forensic professionals can interview, obtain histories, or review records as well or better than psychologists, but we are the only ones who administer and interpret testing, and when working in a setting where the “patients” always have a financial or legal motivation to try to deceive you, and a sizable percentage do attempt to do so, testing is extremely important in separating reality from fantasy.
Have we covered all bases? Any further questions come to mind while reading Dr. Rabin’s story? Please feel free to submit questions by commenting on this post and we will direct them to him and post the responses.
Forensic Nexus would like to thank Dr. Rabin for his participation. He has also agreed to offer mentorship to individuals seeking career advisement.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about mentorship.
Every Monday we will be spotlighting forensic professionals. To contribute your story, please visit this link.
Till next week!