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Heilbrun Research Lab

Kirk Heilbrun, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychology, received his doctorate in clinical psychology in 1980 from the University of Texas at Austin, and completed postdoctoral fellowship training from 1981-82 in psychology and criminal justice at Florida State University. His current research focuses on forensic mental health assessment, violence risk assessment, risk management, interventions to reduce risk, and community-based alternatives to prosecution. His practice interests also center around forensic assessment, and he directs a practicum within the department in this area. He is board certified in Clinical Psychology and in Forensic Psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology, and is a past president of both the American Psychology-Law Psychology/APA Division 41, and the American Board of Forensic Psychology.

Personal Perspectives: My Life as a Forensic Psychologist [PDF]

Research Projects

I am currently working on research projects in the areas of risk-needs assessment of offenders, diversion from prosecution for individuals with severe mental illness and substance abuse, and developing a risk-reducing reentry protocol for individuals returning to the community from incarceration. I am also collaborating with Randy Otto and Alan Goldstein on a book on forensic mental health assessment and ethics, and co-authoring (with Dave DeMatteo, Chris King, and Sarah Filone) a book on juvenile forensic evaluations.

Forensic Clinic

The Forensic Clinic in the Department of Psychology is run by Kirk Heilbrun, PhD. Three advanced students per year in the clinical doctoral program or law-psychology program take it as a 10-hour per week practicum. The clinic practicum involves the forensic assessment of adults and juveniles on criminal issues (e.g., competence to stand trial, federal sentencing, capital sentencing, juvenile commitment, juvenile decertification), and occasional evaluations of standard of practice or workplace disability in the civil domain. Supervision is provided through weekly meetings plus feedback on each of the steps involved in forensic assessments. Practicum students typically have the opportunity to work directly on 10-15 cases per year, and also to participate in discussions of cases on which they have not worked directly. In addition, clinic participants typically collaborate with Dr. Heilbrun in writing and submitting for publication one paper per year on a topic relevant to forensic mental health assessment.

Reentry Project

Professor Heilbrun and the members of his team have recently developed the Reentry Project, a comprehensive group therapy program designed specifically to meet the needs of offenders reentering the community after incarceration. Heilbrun’s team spent nine months researching and developing a curriculum for the project. The goal of the project is to teach participants skills that will reduce their risk of reoffending, and also help them lead responsible and successful lives in the community. The project consists of an assessment, two sessions of motivational enhancement, and three 12-session modules (Relevant Skills, Thinking, and Problem Solving). The Reentry Project began accepting referrals in early summer 2015. Two groups of reentry court participants are currently attending weekly group therapy sessions. The project coordinators are Victoria Pietruszka (vlpietruszka@gmail.com) and Alice Thornewill (alice.thornewil@gmail.com). Other key project personnel include Rebecca Newsham, Shelby Arnold, Keisha April, Jennica Janssen and Mina Ratkalkar.