With specialty areas in forensics and law enforcement, and after completing a pre-doctoral internship at the Federal Medical Center (Federal Bureau of Prisons) in Lexington, Ky., Dr. Andrew Cassens has found a career home in both psychology and the criminal justice system.
“In that role at FMC, I was challenged to balance different priorities, and complete psychological evaluations on federal inmates for the federal courts,” Cassens says. “From a clinical standpoint, I learned how to build trust and rapport with a challenging population. The most important thing was to stand by my word and do what I told them I’d do. Building that trust made them feel more comfortable coming back in for treatment.”
Cassens has completed forensic training at correctional facilities and county court/probation departments with the goal of learning how mental health professionals can better serve as expert witnesses in the court system. He uses his teachings to help his students learn how to provide testimony and what psychological testing in the criminal justice system involves.
His multiple degrees in psychology, clinical psychology, and forensic psychology have also been useful since joining the VA’s Compensation & Pension Department in 2009, where he assesses veterans for various service-connected disabilities, primarily PTSD.
“Forensic work is challenging because you’re working with very difficult cases that sometimes involve a lot of trauma on the part of your client,” he says. “Some of that material can really leave a mark on you, the person. It’s not for everyone. I tell my students to make sure they feel emotionally ready to deal with difficult cases and handle the stress of the legal system, which can be adversarial in nature.”
In addition to teaching at TCSPP and his work with the VA, Cassens is pursuing a Master of Legal Studies from The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law—his fifth degree (and third master’s degree) to take advantage of the dual degree for psychology and law students.