Jennifer Piel, University of Washington residents, and other attorneys, pose in a courtroom during a mock trial activity.
The VA Mental Health and Justice rotation culminates with a mock trial activity, where UW psychiatry residents testify as experts in a case with mental health concerns.

The Center for Mental Health, Policy, and the Law aims to make forensic mental health programming available to trainees and foster interest in forensic mental health topics relevant to clinical work.

The University of Washington (UW) Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences offers the following courses on topics in forensic mental health.

PBSCI 525 P-Psychiatry And The Law (3 credits)

Instructors: Jennifer Piel, MD, JD and Edward E. Goldenberg, PhD

Generally offered Spring Quarter, this course explores issues at the interface of law and psychiatry through didactic curriculum and research. Trainees develop an individualized research project with the assistance of their faculty mentors. Covers topics in civil and criminal forensic psychiatry, research ethics, research design, grantsmanship, and mental health law.

PBSCI 580 Applied Research In Behavioral Health And Justice Policy (2 credits)

Instructor: Jennifer Piel, MD, JD

This seminar provides direct experience working with community agencies to build research capacity. Emphasized child welfare, children’s mental/behavioral health, and juvenile justice. Seminars cover translational research, community-based research, and communicating research to program and policy audiences. For graduate students, psychiatric residents, and graduate psychology, psychosocial nursing, social work, and public health students.

About the instructors

Jennifer Piel, MD, JD, director for the Center for Mental Health, Policy, and the Law, is the forensic mental health module leader and coordinator for University of Washington forensic psychiatry training. As a former associate program director for the general psychiatry residency program, Dr. Piel has expertise in psychiatry education, particularly forensic mental health education and training. She is a recipient of the outstanding junior clinician teacher faculty award and residents’ “favorite supervisor” recognition. Dr. Piel teaches medical-legal topics for trainees in psychiatry, psychology, social work, nursing, occupational medicine, law and other programs. In addition to instructing PBSCI 525, she oversees the VA mental health and justice rotation, and research electives in forensic mental health.

Edward E. Goldenberg, PhD, is a clinical professor in the UW Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. He has extensive experience working in corrections, mental health, and academic settings. Dr. Goldenberg worked as a psychologist with the State of Wisconsin Division of Corrections and with the Washington State Department of Corrections. He has served as an expert witness in civil cases involving the Involuntary Treatment Act. Dr. Goldenberg is a member of the training faculty for the UW Psychology Internship program, where he currently serves on the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee. He is a mentor for psychiatry and psychology trainees and teaches undergraduate research.

The following forensic rotations are available in the UW Psychiatry Residency Program.


VA Mental Health and Justice

Rotation Director: Jennifer Piel, MD, JD

Site: VA Puget Sound, Off-site activities

Schedule: Friday PM from July-Dec


This rotation aims to provide background and experiential opportunities for residents to learn about issues in forensic psychiatry (or psychiatry and the law). It is suitable for residents who want a broader understanding of ways that the law intersects with mental health services in routine psychiatric practice as well as those with an interest in specialized training in forensic psychiatry.

Forensic issues arise in all psychiatric settings. Through this rotation, residents will explore how to identify and respond to forensic issues in clinical practice; appreciate the breadth of the field; and understand how mental health clinicians contribute to the legal system. Examples of experiential activities include police ride-along, site visit to correctional facility, prepare simulated “expert witness” reports; and participation in a therapeutic court. The rotation culminates with a mock trial activity, where residents will “testify as experts” in a mock case with mental health concerns.

Core objectives:

  • Explore issues at the interface of law and psychiatry
  • Appreciate forensic issues in routine clinical practice, including violence risk assessment
  • Become more familiar with how the law regulates psychiatric practice
  • Appreciate points of intersection with the criminal justice system for persons with mental illness
  • Complete mock “expert” reports and testimony in simulated expert witness exercises

Counts toward outpatient requirement.


Forensic Psychiatry Research with PBSCI 525

Rotation Director: Jennifer Piel, MD, JD

Site: VA Puget Sound, UW Main Campus, Remote

Schedule: Half or full day from Jan–June on Mondays (must have Mon PM for didactics). There may be an option to extend this to 12 months with prior approval from Dr. Piel. Please reach out to Dr. Piel if you are interested in extending or have questions.


This rotation is aimed for residents interested in learning more about topics in forensic mental health (or the intersection of mental health and the law). The rotation combines 1) dedicated time to develop a research, advocacy, or other a scholarly project under mentored supervision with 2) PBSCI-525, an interdisciplinary course in psychiatry and the law. The rotation is individualized to the skills and interests of each resident.

Residents should note that the course component (PBSCI-525) runs from late-March to mid-June in conjunction with the University of Washington’s spring quarter, and the class meets on Mondays from 7:00 p.m.–9:20 p.m.. During this portion of the rotation, the course will account for 2.5 hours of the rotation and residents will, accordingly, have personal time in the day.

The course component will cover core principles in civil and criminal law related to mental health; research and policy ethics; research design; and mental health law. Potential research topics include: civil competencies, criminal competencies, expert witness testimony, involuntary treatment, child custody, psychological harm, correctional psychiatry, criminal responsibility, suicide and violence risk assessment, sexual offenders, public policy and the law, among others.

Core objectives:

  • Explore issues at the interface of law and psychiatry
  • Explore issues at the interface of law and psychiatry
  • Understand ethical issues in forensic research and policy
  • Become familiar with research tools used in mental health and the law
  • Become familiar with types of research design in forensic psychiatry
  • Design and complete an individual research project with paper under supervision

More information can be found in Dr. Piel’s Legislative Advocacy and Forensic Psychiatry Training article and on the PBSCI 525 course page.


Selective: Special Topic in Forensic Mental Health & Policy

Rotation Director: Jennifer Piel, MD, JD

Schedule: The rotation is for R2s for one month. Residents will participate daily with the exception of their half-day for didactics and continuity clinic. Supervision is on Mondays with additional feedback and meetings as needed.


This is a one-month elective rotation for R2s interested in a supervised experience in mental health law or policy.  Residents will work with faculty to design a project focused on a specific psycholegal topic, legal case review and analysis, or legislative advocacy related to mental health. Examples of projects include review of recent Washington State cases related to mental health; scan and analysis of legal cases on a particular topic like civil commitment; or review of legislation and participation in the Washington State legislative session.

The rotation is open to 1 to 2 residents in January or February with prior approval from Dr. Piel. Please email Dr. Piel to discuss your interest.

The UW Psychiatry Residency Program offers protected didactics one half-day per week during the academic year, which includes a forensic didactic series.


CMHPL Trainee Ambassador Program

The CMHPL Trainee Ambassador Program creates opportunities for connection between current and prospective trainees. Trainee ambassadors have participated in forensic mental health programming through the University of Washington and are available to answer your questions about rotations and other training opportunities that they have participated in. Ambassadors are selected annually.

To connect with a CMHPL trainee ambassador, please contact them via email.

2024–2025 CMHPL Trainee Ambassadors:

Claire Oduwo headshotClaire Oduwo, MD (

  • Education: MD and BS in neuroscience with minors in psychology, chemistry and mathematics, University of Nebraska
  • Hometown: Omaha, NE
  • Forensic Mental Health Training: Forensic research
  • Clinical & Research Interests: Community mental health, global mental health, care for incarcerated individuals, forensic evaluations, advocacy


2023–2024 CMHPL Trainee Ambassadors:

Nicola Park, MD (

  • Education: MD, University of Texas at Houston; BA in cognitive sciences with minor in neuroscience, Rice University
  • Hometown: Northern California
  • Forensic Mental Health Training: VA Mental Health and Justice Rotation
  • Clinical & Research Interests: Health equity, mental health systems and policy, cultural psychiatry


Joellyn Sheehy, MD  (

  • Education: MD, Loma Linda University; BS, Union College in Lincoln, NE
  • Hometown: Leighton Buzzard, UK
  • Forensic Mental Health Training: VA Mental Health and Justice Rotation, forensic research
  • Clinical & Research Interests: Serious mental illness and cross-cultural psychiatry

Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowship in Psychosis Treatment and Recovery

This fellowship position is co-sponsored by the Center for Mental Health, Policy, and the Law and the University of Washington’s SPIRIT Lab. Fellows will primarily be based out of the Harborview Medical Center in downtown Seattle, Washington.

Dr. Katherine Michaelsen, CMHPL core faculty member, contributed to educational modules on confidentiality and duties to third parties, free to access via the Yale website. The modules are designed to teach general psychiatry residents about basic concepts in forensic psychiatry using an interactive, case-based format. Each module takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

This work was supported by an educational grant from the AAPL Institute for Education and Research.


Upon completion of the module, you will be able to:

  1. Understand the concepts of confidentiality, privilege, and privacy
  2. Identify common legally allowable exceptions to confidentiality under state and federal law (i.e. HIPAA)
  3. Identify the steps to take when you receive a subpoena to relinquish medical records
  4. Apply your understanding to clinical encounters

Duties to third parties

Upon completion of the module, you will be able to:

  1. Identify the relevant Tarasoff requirements in your state and know how to find them
  2. Distinguish between various types of Tarasoff laws
  3. Know the options available to you when a patient verbalizes a threat to an identifiable victim
  4. Apply your understanding to clinical encounters

Note: Tarasoff laws vary by state. The Tarasoff case was a legal decision in California that paved the way for the establishment of Tarasoff duties across the country. Many providers have heard of Tarasoff and may think that they understand its implications. However, statutes or case law in their state may differ significantly from the actual Tarasoff decision. 

Recent trainee publications

Applegate K.C., Means J., & Piel, J. (2020). Prolonged pretrial detention violates Fourteenth Amendment. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 48(2), 261–263.

Balash J, Means J, & Piel J. (2022). Duty to warn and actual communication. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 50(4), 646–648.

Barnes C., & Piel J. (2021). Capital punishment and youth offendersJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 49(3), 439–441.

Barnes C., & Piel J. (2022). Are mental health clinicians receiving relevant legal updates? AAPL Newsletter, 47(1), 25.

Benites, R.L., Qureshi, B. & Piel, J. (2023). Bodily restraint for a nonmedical purpose. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 51(4), 603–604. 

Clune K., & Piel J. (2020). Reassessment of competency. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 48(2), 263–265.

Goyden J., & Piel J. (2022). Strict liability in drug possession. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law50(1), 142–143.

Hassan A., & Piel J. (2022). Sentencing for cocaine offenses. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 50(1), 138–140.

Ochrach, C., Means, J. C., Chong, A., & Piel, J. (2024). Worker’s compensation for PTSD. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 52(1), 114–116.

Park, N., & Piel, J. (2023). Driving under the influence and cannabis. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 51(1), 148–150.

Piel J., & Sheehy J. (2023). Criminal defense attorneys and suicide prevention. International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services Newsletter, 8(1), 8–9.

Rankin A., Christopher S., & Piel J. (2020). Employment actions under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 48(4), 567–569.

Sheehy, J. & Piel, J. (2023). Nontestimonial statements. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 51(1), 146–148.

Sorta D., & Piel J. (2022). Rehabilitation potential in juvenile sentencing. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 50(1), 140–142.

Stanczyk, B., & Piel, J. (2023). Knowledge required to convict in bail jumping. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 51(1), 144–146.

Tariq, R., Momany, M., & Piel, J. (2023). Prehospitalization confinement time limits. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 51(4), 601–603.

Recent trainee presentations

Barnes C., & Piel J. (2022, October). Deliberate indifference and suicide in the U.S. corrections system [Poster presentation]. American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.

Piel, J., & Barnes, C. (2022, March). What should behavioral health clinicians know about law? University of Washington Psychiatry and Addictions Case Conference, Seattle, WA.

Piel J., & Sheehy, J. (2022, October) Discussion on the interface between behavioral health and the criminal legal system [Invited speaker]. Washington State Co-Occurring Disorder and Treatment Conference, Yakima, WA.