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Donald Bersoff

Donald Bersoff, JD, PhD

Professor Emeritus
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Office: Kline School of Law, Room 271
Phone: 215.571.4819


Donald N. Bersoff, JD, PhD, is a professor emeritus in the School of Law and Department of Psychology. He received his PhD from New York University in 1965 and his JD from Yale Law School in 1976 where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has taught at several universities and maintained a private practice in psychology before entering law school. In 1979, Bersoff became the first general counsel of the American Psychological Association. Two years later he helped found the law firm of Ennis, Friedman, Bersoff & Ewing in Washington, DC, merging it with Jenner & Block in 1988. He is the author of over 100 book chapters, articles, and papers on ethics and the interaction of law, psychology and the social sciences. He is the author of Ethical Conflicts in Psychology (2008), published in the 4th edition by the American Psychological Association, senior author of Law and Mental Health Professionals—Pennsylvania, and an extensive chapter on education and training in law and psychology. He has served as president of the American Psychology-Law Society, on the American Bar Association’s Commission on the Mentally Disabled, and as Chair of the Section on Mental Disability Law of the Association of American Law Schools.

Curriculum Vitae:

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Research Interests:

  • Legal and ethical issues in mental health
  • Developmental disabilities and education
  • Ethics and the law


Donald Bersoff, JD, PhD, is a nationally renowned expert on legal and ethical issues in mental health, developmental disabilities and education, as well as ethics and the law.

Before coming to Drexel, Bersoff directed the JD/PhD Program in Law and Psychology offered jointly by the Villanova University School of Law and the Department of Clinical & Health Psychology at MCP Hahnemann University (which has since merged with Drexel University.) He has served as an adjunct professor in Drexel University’s Department of Psychology since 2001.

His other academic positions include developing the nation’s second joint law and psychology program, offered by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland School of Law, as well as holding faculty posts at the University of Georgia College of Education and Ohio State University.

Bersoff edited the landmark “Ethical Conflicts in Psychology,” now in its fourth edition, and wrote more than 100 publications and papers on the interaction of law, psychology and public policy. His articles have appeared in publications including American Psychologist, University of Chicago Law School Roundtable, Law and Human Behavior, Ethics & Behavior and the Journal of School Psychology.

He has extensive professional experience in both law and psychology, having been general counsel to the American Psychological Association, and a partner in the Washington-based firms of Jenner & Block and Ennis Friedman & Bersoff. Elected to three terms on the APA Council of Representatives, he served as president of the American Psychology-Law Society and chairman of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Mental Disability Law. His experience as a clinical psychologist includes work with the U.S. Air Force in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

His media interviews and commentary include appearances on CNN, CBS Morning News and NPR.

Bersoff received his JD from Yale University Law School, where he served on the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal.

Selected Publications:

  • (2003). Ethical conflicts in psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (3d Ed.)
  • (2001). 2000 Supplement to Ziskin's Coping with Psychiatric and Psychological Testimony (5th Ed.). (Senior editor with S. Anderer, L. Dodds, & D. Glass).
  • (1999). Ethical conflicts in psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association (2d Ed.)
  • (1999). Law and mental health professionals: Pennsylvania. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association). (Senior author with R. Field, S. Anderer, & T. Zaplac).
  • (1995). Ethical conflicts in psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • (1976). Learning to teach: A decision-making system. Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath. (co-author with M. Tillman J. Dolly).
  • (2000). Confidentiality. In A. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • (2000). Case Law. In A. Kazdin (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • (2000). Ethical issues in the collection of self-report data. In A. Stone, J. Turkkan, C. Bachrach, V. Cain, J. Jobe, H. Kurtzman (Eds.), The science of self-report: Implications for research and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. (co-author with David Bersoff).
  • (2000). Law and school psychology. In C. Reynolds & T. Gutkin (Eds.), Handbook of school psychology (3rd ed.) pp. 1077-1112. New York: Wiley (co-author with D. Reschly).
  • (in press). Depositions and the forensic psychologist. In S. Bucky (Ed.), The comprehensive textbook of ethics and law in the practice of psychology. New York: Plenum (also serve on Editorial Board for text with Bruce Bennett, Joanne Callan, and George Stricker).
  • (1999). Preparing for two cultures: Education and training in psychology and law. In R. Roesch, S. Hart, & J. Ogloff (Eds.), Psychology and law: State of the discipline (pp. 375-401). New York: Plenum.
  • (1999). Ethical perspectives in clinical research. In P. Kendall, J. N. Butcher & G. N. Holmbeck (Eds.), Fundamentals of clinical research pp. 31-53. (co-author with David Bersoff).
  • (1991). Legal issues in computerized psychological testing. In T. Gutkin & S. Wise (Eds.), The computer and the decision-making process. (pp. 225-243). Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum. (Senior author with P. Hofer). 11
  • (1990). The legal regulation of school psychology. In C. Reynolds and T. Gutkin (Eds.), Handbook of school psychology (2d ed). (pp. 939-963). New York: Wiley. (Senior author with P. Hofer).
  • (1989). Legal considerations in quality assurance. In G. Stricker and A. Rodriguez (Eds.), Quality assurance in mental health. (pp. 311-329). New York: Plenum. (Senior author with K. Kinports).
  • (1984). Social and legal influences on test development and usage. In B. Plake (Ed.), Social and technical issues in testing. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum.
  • (1984). Psychological assessment in the schools. In N. Repucci, L. Weithorn, E. Mulvey and J. Monahan (Eds.), Children, mental health and the law. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.
  • (1983). Children as participants in psychoeducational assessment. In G. Melton, G. Koocher, and M. Saks (Eds.), Children's competence to consent. (pp. 149-177). New York: Plenum.
  • (1982). Regarding psychologists testily: The legal regulation of psychological assessment. In J. Schierer & B. Hammonds (Eds.), Master Lecture Series (Vol. II) Psychology and the law: Washington, D.C.: APA.
  • (1982). Children as research subjects: Problems of competency and consent. In J. Henning (Ed.), Rights of children: Legal and psychological perspectives. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas.
  • (1982). Larry P. and PASE: Judicial report cards on the validity of individual intelligence tests. In T. Kratochwill (Ed.), Advances in School Psychology, (Vol. II). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.
  • (1982). The legal regulation of school psychology. In C. Reynolds and T. Gutkin (Eds.), Handbook for school psychology. (pp. 1043-1074). New York: Wiley.
  • (1980). Equal educational opportunity. In R. Burgdorf (Ed.), The legal rights of handicapped persons: Cases, materials, and text. (pp. 53-315). Baltimore, Md.: Paul H. Brookes. (Co-author with R. Burgdorf).
  • (1980). A practical guide to privileged communication for psychologists. In G. Cooke (Ed.), The role of the forensic psychologist. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas. (Senior author with M. Jain).
  • (1980). Confidentiality and the Family Rights to Privacy Act. In NASW (Eds.), School social work and the law. Washington, D.C.: NASW. 12
  • (1979). Ethical and legal issues in behavioral assessment. In D. Sabatino and T. Miller (Eds.), Describing learner characteristics for special education instruction. New York: Grune & Stratton. (Senior author with T. Miller).
  • (1978). Reciprocity and coercion in psychotherapy. In C. T. Fischer S. Brodsky (Eds.), The Prometheus principle: Informed participation by clients in human services. New Brunswick: Transaction.
  • (1978). Procedural safeguards under Pub. L. 94-142. In Bureau of Education for the Handicapped, DHEW (Ed.), Due Process: Developing criteria for the evaluation of due process procedural safeguards provisions. Washington, D.C.: DHEW.
  • (1978). Legal and ethical concerns in research. In L. Goldman (Ed.), Research for the counselor. (pp. 363-397). New York: Wiley.
  • (1976). Positive Reinforcement Observation Schedule (PROS): Development and Applications. In E. Mash & L. Terdal (Eds.), Behavior therapy assessment: Diagnosis, design and evaluation. N.Y.: Springer. (Senior author with D. Moyer). A description of the PROS appears in Johnson, O.G. & Bommarito, J.W. (Eds.), Tests and measurements in child development: A handbook (revised edition) 1976.
  • (2005). The differing conceptions of culpability in law & psychology. Widener Law Review, 11, 81-92 (11 Widener L. Rev. 81 (2005)).
  • (2002). Some contrarian concerns about law, psychology, and public policy. Law and Human Behavior, 26, 565-574.
  • (2001). Bruce J. Ennis: A remembrance. Law and Human Behavior, 25, 663-665.
  • (1997). Training in law and psychology: Models from the Villanova Conference. American Psychologist, 52, 1301-1310. (Senior author with J. Goodman-Delahunty, T. Grisso, V. Hans, N. Poythress, & R. Roesch).
  • (1996). How many procedural safeguards does it take to get a psychiatrist to leave the lightbulb unchanged? A due process analysis of the MacArthur Treatment Competency Study. Psychology, Public Policy, and the Law, 2, 45-72. (Co-author with T. Kirk).
  • (1996). Process and procedures for dealing with misconduct: A necessity or a nightmare? Journal of Dental Research, 75, 836-840. 13
  • (1996). The virtue of principle ethics. The Counseling Psychologist, 24, 86-91.
  • (1996). Education and training in psychology and law/criminal justice: Historical foundations, present structures, and future developments. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 23, 200-235.
  • (1995). The not-so Weisman: The Supreme Court's continuing misuse of social science research. University of Chicago Law School Roundtable, 2, 279-302. (Senior author with D. Glass) (2 U.Chi. L. Sch. Roundtable 279 (1995)).
  • (1994). Explicit ambiguity: The 1992 ethics code as an oxymoron. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25, 382-387.
  • (1994). Legal issues in the assessment and treatment of individuals with dual diagnoses. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 62, 55-62. (Senior author with D. Glass & N. Blain).
  • (1993). The relation between ethical codes and moral principles. Ethics & Behavior, 3, 345-357. (Senior author with P. Koeppl).
  • (1993). What constitutes a scientific review? A majority retort to Barrett and Morris. Law and Human Behavior, 17, 217-233. (Second author with S. Fiske, E. Borgida, K. Deaux, & M. Heilman).
  • Reprinted in M. R. Walsh (Ed.), Women, men, and gender. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.
  • (1993). Accuracy and objectivity on behalf of the APA. American Psychologist, 48, 55-56. (Second author with S. Fiske, E. Borgida, K. Deaux, & M. Heilman).
  • (1992). Judicial deference to nonlegal decisionmakers: Imposing simplistic solutions on problems of cognitive complexity in mental disability law. Southern Methodist Law Review, 46, 327-370 (46 SMU L. Rev. 327 (1992)).
  • (1992). Autonomy for vulnerable populations: The Supreme Court's reckless disregard for social science and self-determination. Villanova Law Review, 37, 1569-1605 (37 Vill. L. Rev. 1569 (1992)).
  • (1992). Is to share pro bono? Ethics & Behavior, 2, 312-315.
  • (1991). Social science research on trial: The use of sex stereotyping research in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins. American Psychologist, 46, 1049-1060. (Second author with S. Fiske, E. Borgida, K. Deaux, & M. Heilman).
  • (1991). Respectful silence. Ethics & Behavior, 1, 278-291. 14
  • (1991). APA amicus curiae briefs: Furthering lesbian and gay male civil rights. American Psychologist, 46, 950-956. (Senior author with David W. Ogden).
  • (1988). Should subjective employment devices be scrutinized? Its elementary my dear Ms. Watson. American Psychologist, 43, 1016-1018.
  • (1987). Social science data and the Supreme Court: Lockhart as a case in point. American Psychologist, 42, 52-57.
  • (1986). Psychologists and the judicial system: Broader perspectives. Law and Human Behavior, 10, 151-165.
  • (1983). Hospital privileges and the antitrust laws. American Psychologist, 38, 1238-1242.
  • (1981). From courthouse to schoolhouse: Using the legal system to secure the right to an appropriate education. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 52, 506-517.
  • (1981). Testing and the law. American Psychologist, 36, 1047-1056.
  • (1979). Regarding psychologists testily: Legal constraints on psychological assessment in the public schools. Maryland Law Review, 39, 27-120. (39 Md. L. Rev. 27 (1979)).
  • (1979). Handicapped persons as research subjects. Amicus, 4, 133-140.
  • (1979). Legal implications of public education of the handicapped. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 12, 274-291 (Senior author with E. Veltman).
  • (1978). Applied psychology and judicial decision making: Corporal punishment as a case in point. Professional Psychology, 9, 400-411 (senior author with D. Prasse) (Special issue on Law and Applied Psychology).
  • (1978). Parental consent for psychological evaluations: Legal, ethical and practical considerations. Journal of School Psychology, 16, 274-281 (Co-author with W. Pryzwansky).
  • (1977). Special education for preschoolers: Impact of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Journal of School Psychology, 15, 190-191.
  • (1976). Representation for children in custody proceedings: All that glitters is not Gault. Journal of Family Law, 15, 27-49 (15 J. Fam. Law 27 (1976-1977)).
  • (1976). An integrated approach to the psychosituational assessment of behavior. Professional Psychology, 7, 485-495. (Co-author with C. Ellett). 15
  • (1976). Therapists as protectors and policemen: New roles as a result of Tarasoff? Professional Psychology, 7, 267-273.
  • (Spring, 1976). Child advocacy: The next step. Educational Quarterly. (Spring), 7, 10-17. Reprinted in Dushkin Publishing Co. (Ed.), Readings in education, Guilford, CT.: Dushkin Publishing Co., 1977.
  • (1975). Professional ethics and legal responsibilities: On the horns of a dilemma. Journal of School Psychology, 13, 359-376.
  • (1974). Reinforcement practices of black and white teachers in integrated classrooms. Journal of Educational Psychology, 66, 473-480. (Co-author with R. Byalick).
  • (1973). Silk purses into sow's ears: The decline of psychological testing and a suggestion for its redemption. American Psychologist, 28, 892-899. Reprinted in School Psychology Digest, 1973, 2, 18-23.
  • (1973). The ethical practice of school psychology: Rebuttal and suggested model. Professional Psychology, 4, 305-312. Reprinted in School Psychology Digest, 1974, 3, 16-21.
  • (1972). A precise and valid measure of behavior and behavior change in the classroom. Journal of School Psychology, 10, 361-366. (Senior author with C. Ericson).
  • (1972). Effectiveness of special class placement for children labeled "neurologically handicapped." Journal of School Psychology, 10, 157-164. (Senior author with M. Kabler, E. Fiscus, R. Ankney).
  • (1972). Physically handicapped students in school psychology programs. Journal of School Psychology, 10, 217-220.
  • (1972). Protecting whom? A rebuttal. Professional Psychology, 3, 301-302.
  • (1971). "Current functioning" myth: An overlooked fallacy in psychological assessment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 37, 391-393.
  • (1971). School psychology as "institutional psychiatry." Professional Psychology, 1971, 2, 266-270. Reprinted in A. Davids (Ed.), Issues in abnormal child psychology, Belmont, Calif.: Brooks/Cole, 1973. Also reprinted in School Psychology Digest, 1974, 3, 16-21.
  • (1971). An interview model for the psychosituational assessment of children's behavior. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 41, 483-493. (Senior author with R. Grieger). Reprinted in Rational Living, 1972, 7, 14-22. 16
  • (1971). School psychology and special education: A suggestion for change. Journal of School Psychology, 9, 58-60.
  • (1970). Rorschach correlates of traumatic neurosis of war. Journal of Projective Techniques and Personality Assessment, 26, 71-73.
  • (1970). The revised deterioration formula for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale: A test of validity. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 26, 71-73.