Forensic acuity – a core competence of forensic mental health professionals

Monday 11 September 2023, 2:30 pm
PhD student
M. Clercx MSc.
prof. dr. H.C.M. Didden
dr. M.E. Keulen-de Vos

Forensic care treats patients with mental disorders who have committed a serious crime. Professionals working in this sector play a unique role. They are healthcare providers, and yet they are also responsible for safety. In the Netherlands, the term ‘forensic acuity’ is used to refer to a certain skill required of forensic mental health professionals. This term is used often, for instance in job descriptions and training programmes, while it is also common in incident reports. The research report drafted in response to the Michael P. case, for instance, stated that the professionals did not display sufficient ‘forensic acuity’. 

Despite the presumed importance and widespread use of this term, its meaning has not always been clear. This PhD research establishes a definition for the term on a scientific basis, as well as the professional qualities that it entails. The research also presents a model of what forensic acuity looks like in practice. From the research, it appears that forensic acuity is a very important competence for forensic professionals. This PhD research forms a first step in research on forensic acuity and offers tools that forensic institutions can use, for instance in supervision, peer consultation and training sessions. 

Maartje Clercx was born in Arnhem on 22 August 1987. In 2005, she obtained her secondary school diploma (VWO) at the Bisschoppelijk College Schöndeln in Roermond. In 2010, she was awarded her Bachelor of Science in Psychology with the cum laude honours distinction by Maastricht University. She subsequently obtained her Master of Science in Psychology in 2013, again with the cum laude honours distinction, at Maastricht University. 
After working as a junior researcher and database coordinator at Maastricht University from 2015 to 2017, she began working as a junior researcher at Rooyse Wissel in 2018. In 2019, she began her PhD research into forensic acuity at Rooyse Wissel through Radboud University Nijmegen, under the supervision of Prof. Robert Didden, Dr Marije Keulen-de Vos and Prof. Henk Nijman†. Clercx received the Derek Eaves Student Research Grant (2021-2022) for one of her research sub-studies. After obtaining her PhD, Clercx has continued to work at Rooyse Wissel as a senior researcher.