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Forensic Psychology Emphasis

Applying psychological research and expertise in the legal arena

Clinical assessments. Interventions. Research. Advocacy. Forensic psychology is more than just the “expert witness” role in TV dramas.

The PhD emphasis in Forensic Psychology at PAU trains specialists in the clinical application of psychology to the legal system. We focus on broad and general clinical training, along with specialized forensic elective courses and practical experiences.

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Emphasis Objectives

Completion of the Forensic Area of Emphasis at PAU signifies:

  • Completion of advanced training in areas of clinical forensic psychology designed to satisfy requirements and competencies published in the literature and by governing bodies in forensic psychology (e.g. APA Division 41, AAFP)
  • Completion of practical clinical and research activities relevant to the practice of clinical forensic psychology
  • Performance in broad and general clinical doctoral requirements in excess of general required program minimums
  • Qualification to receive further professional training, education and experience in forensic psychology (e.g. during internship). 

Emphasis Requirements


During your training, you will complete a dissertation that contributes to the body of knowledge relevant to the intersection of psychology and law.

If you are not working with one of the core faculty of the Area of Emphasis, you should seek approval with the director to assure that your dissertation topic meets this requirement prior to the dissertation proposal.


You will also complete an official practicum placement (one year of full or supplemental) in a setting that provides forensically-relevant practical experience. Ideally, students seeking internships and/or careers in correctional or forensic settings will complete practicum in a related locale.

If your interests are elsewhere, such a SUD treatment of parolees, you can seek other relevant experience to satisfy the requirement. Your advisor or the emphasis director will review and approve your proposed practicum.


The forensic sequence includes five courses for a total of 15 credits.  This sequence of courses and their content have been carefully designed to fulfill training requirements and competencies for forensic psychologists published in the literature (DeMatteo, Marczyk, Krauss, & Burl, 2009), and by relevant professional bodies (e.g. APA Division 41, AAFP).

The typical sequence of courses includes:

Second year of PhD study:

  • Fall quarter: Forensic I
  • Winter quarter: Forensic II or Advanced Ethical/Legal

Third year of PhD study:

  • Winter quarter: remaining of Forensic II or Advanced Ethical/Legal
  • Spring quarter: Forensic Assessment

Seminars may be taken any time prerequisites are met. Specific courses from other PhD areas of emphasis may count as meeting the Forensic AoE seminar requirement. Check with your advisor on which courses are currently being cross-listed.

If you are looking to customize your training experience toward a career in correctional treatment and rehabilitation, you can also request to count courses focusing on Substance Abuse diagnosis and treatment.

Christopher M. Weaver Palo Alto University Faculty
Christopher Weaver, Director, Forensic Psychology

Dr. Weaver is an Associate Professor at Palo Alto University, and Director of PAU’s Forensic Psychology Program. He has published in the areas of psychopathy and violence risk assessment, and more recently in the areas of substance abuse and psychological trauma.

PhD in Clinical Psychology Admissions

Applications & Deadlines


The PhD program requires the following prerequisites for entry into the PhD in Clinical Psychology program:

  • Biopsychology (e.g. Sensation and Perception, Brain and Behavior)
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Statistics

PhD in Clinical Psychology Admissions Information

How to Apply

Application Deadlines

The PhD program uses rolling admissions. Students who submit an application early will have their applications reviewed first. This usually means that early applicants are also invited to interview early in the interview cycle, which begins in January. 

More on How to Apply

Admissions FAQ's

Applying to PhD Labs, GRE Scores & More. 

Admission FAQ's

Admissions & Continuation Criteria

Any PAU PhD student may take the Forensic I course (CLIN831) as an elective. To continue further in this specialty, you must apply to the Director of the Forensic Psychology Area of Emphasis for admission. The Director will solicit for applications near the end of the Forensic I course. Admission will be granted to all students who meet the Admission Criteria below. Students must also continue to meet the Continuation Criteria below in order to stay in the Area of Emphasis.

To apply for admission to the Forensic Area of Emphasis, students must provide evidence of the following:

  1. All course work at PAU (or course work transferred in from another institution) must reflect a grade of “B” or higher (e.g. not B-), with particular attention paid to the Research Methods and Statistics sequence.
  2. The following core clinical and required courses (or equivalents) must be completed with an average passing grade of at least "A-".
a.ASMT800: Psychopathology and Psychodiagnosis I
b.ASMT801: Psychopathology and Psychodiagnosis II
c.CLIN800: Ethics in Clinical Psychology
d.CLIN831: Forensic Psychology I
e.CLIN825: Professional Standards I

If you do not meet initial admission criteria, you may be allowed into the area of emphasis on probationary status. You will be allowed to continue your coursework, space permitting, pending a review of your adherence to the continuation criteria.

Classroom Image of Students
Spotlight: Forensic Mental Health Student Group

The Forensic Mental Health Student Group at PAU hosts a number of events each year with the goal of not only professional development, but creating a space for discussing all issues related to forensic mental health.

FMHSG is open to all students at Palo Alto University.