Dr. Suzanne O'Rourke

Senior Lecturer in Forensic Clinical Psychology


Suzanne gained her undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Stirling before moving to the University of Edinburgh's Department of Clinical Neurosciences to study for a PhD in Medicine, subsequently undertaking her Clinical Psychology training, (D.Clin.Psych.), also in Edinburgh.  Post qualification Suzanne has divided her time between the State Hospital, Carstairs, leading their Neuropsychology Assessment and Rehabilitation Service, and the University of Edinburgh's Clinical Psychology Doctoral Programme.   After many years of being split equally been the two roles, Suzanne has recently moved to be primarily based at the University although she continues to contribute to the State Hospital as a Consultant in Forensic, Clinical and Neuropsychology.

Postgraduate teaching

Suzanne is course director for the following courses.

  • Understanding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Context, Contributors & Clinical Presentation (Online)

  • The Assessment and Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (Online)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

Students with an interest in undertaking research in the following, or related, areas are encouraged to get in touch.  I currently have the capacity to accept additional MScR and PhD students.

All aspects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) including it's presence in specific populations, for example; criminal justice, care experienced individuals and those accessing services for homelessness or addiction.


Current PhD students supervised

PhD Students:

  • Cognitive impairments in mentally ill offenders; are they stable and predictive of violent recidivism? A ten year follow up  ( Student: Sarah Brown)
  • Assessing the Cognitive Contributors to Violence Risk  (Student: Sarah Janes)
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the forensic matrix – the delivery of evidence based psychological interventions  ( Student: Lindsey McIntosh)


Doctoral Students in Clinical Psychology

  • The Predictive Validity of the HCR20v3 to Inpatient Violence in Secure Forensic Mental Health Facilities With a Closer Look at Relationships between Demographic Variables in the Sample as a Whole and Clinical Variables in Patients with Schizophrenia (Student: Kerry Joanna Smith)
  • An investigation into the cognitions of those with post stroke emotionalism (PSE): A pilot study to develop a measure of PSE (Student: Niamh McAleese)
  • Development and pilot-testing of a structured protocol for assessing and formulating impaired treatment decision-making capacity among patients with psychosis: a case series (Student: Phillip Murphy)
  • An investigation into behavioural instability in forensic mental health units; a comparison of the predictive validity of instruments to identify violence risk (Student: Max Alford)


Past PhD students supervised

Example projects supervised in the past:

  • A Meta-Analysis of Facial Affect Recognition Training in Populations with a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia (Student: Natalie Bordon)
  • Theory of mind, emotion recognition, hostile attribution bias and paranoia in mentally disordered offenders with schizophrenia. (Student: Helen Bratton)
  • Executive Dysfunction in Non-Learning Disabled Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Student: Hollie Burnett)
  • The utility of the ACE-III in a substance rehabilitation programme, can it predict relapse? (Student:  Louise Young)
  • Protective factors for violence risk in community forensic patients (Student: Clare Neil)
  • The role of childhood trauma, emotion regulation and social problem solving in the experience of post-traumatic stress symptoms in a male adult forensic population (Student: Susan Allan)
  • Social and emotional behaviour change following Traumatic Brain Injury: Identifying the underlying neuropsychological deficits’. Michelle May
  • An examination of the mediating role of hostile attribution bias and emotion regulation in the relationship between childhood emotional maltreatment and aggression in a forensic mental health population. (Student: Joelle Cowie)
  • Computer Assisted Cognitive Remediation Therapy in a High Secure Forensic Psychiatric Setting: A pilot study of functional outcomes and feasibility’ (Student: Martin Gallagher)
  • Social cognition deficits and violence in people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (Student: Heather Langham)
  • The Clinical Practice of Risk Assessment of Sexual Violence (Student: Joe Judge)
  • Cognitive remediation in schizophrenia: effects on cognitive functioning, functional capacity and social functioning (Student: Joanne MacLeod)

Research summary

Suzanne's research interests parallel her clinical work and seek to enhance our understanding of intra-individual, particularly cognitive, contributors to violent offending.

They include:

  • The relationship between cognitive abilities or impairment and the risk of violent recidivism.
  • The neuropsychological characteristics of offenders / prisoners, with or without mental illness.
  • Legal capacity (fitness to plead), diminished responsibility and the insanity defence.
  • Impairments in social cognition and their contribution to offending behaviour.
  • The development of more robust, physiological, measures of characteristics relevant to violent offending.
  • Neuro-rehabilitation in those with a history of offending.
  • The impact of trauma on neuropsychological development.
  • The evidence base for Behavioural Investigative Advice in police liaison.

Applicants considering PhD studies in these fields are encouraged to get in touch.


Research themes

  • Therapy, policy and interventions.

Research groups

  • Forensic Psychology
  • Mental Health and Psychological Treatments

Project activity

In collaboration with research students, colleagues in the School’s Forensic Research Group and members of the Forensic Network I am active in a range of ongoing research programmes.  Their focus includes: the long term stability of cognition in forensic psychiatry patients; cognitive characteristics predictive of violent recidivism; an evaluation of the forensic matrix low intensity interventions; assessing and formulating impaired treatment decision-making capacity in those with psychosis and an examination of the efficacy of the HCR-20 version 3.

View all 46 publications on Research Explorer