Kenneth Cole, PsyD, is a 2010 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

  • Mary Wieneke, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)
  • Catherine Koverola, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
  • Philip Barnard, Ph.D. (Committee Member)


competency to stand trial, rational understanding, qualitative research, case study, cst, assessment, forensic psychology

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Mental competency as a prerequisite for due process was established by the United States Supreme Court‟s Dusky decision (1960). The Court mandated that a defendant must possess reasonable levels of factual and rational understanding in order to competently participate in the adjudication process. The precise definitions of competence were not included in any of the Court‟s decisions regarding the concept of Competency to Stand Trial (CST). The original purpose of this research was to contribute knowledge regarding the psychological dimensions of CST and to suggest definitions of the psychological dimensions of CST and the standardization of the CST evaluation process. However, a review of the existing literature regarding CST revealed a significant omission in the current CST evaluation process. Courts have not adequately defined the dimensions of rational capacity. In addition, CST assessment instruments focus almost exclusively on a defendant‟s factual understanding and take few steps to evaluate the defendant‟s rational capabilities. The research included a qualitative analysis of seven hours of interviews with an incarcerated individual whose CST was in question. That case study was initially designed to analyze for psychological dimensions of CST using the CAI, a predominant CST assessment instrument. The case study revealed that rational capacities are not a prominent part of current evaluation protocols and the impact of rational incompetence on the CST assessment of defendants is minimal. As a result of these discoveries the focus of the research was modified from a study of a broad-spectrum of psychological dimensions of CST into a study specifically focused on identifying and defining dimensions of rational understanding. In addition, the researcher developed a new CST assessment tool explicitly designed to measure a defendant‟s capacity to rationally understand and participate in the adjudication process - the Cole Rationality Assessment Instrument (C-RAI). A small pilot study of the C-RAI is included. No examples of a similar research approach for exploring the psychological dimensions of CST were found during the review of the literature for this study and no other tools specifically designed to measure rational competencies were located. The electronic version of this dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center,