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Transcript of Forensic Psychology
A career in Forensic Psychology means that you are working as a psychologist within the judicial system.
The roles of someone in this profession differ greatly to that of most other careers within psychology, in the way that they are expected to relate to their clients and in what settings.
What does this area cover?
The roles of a forensic psychologist differ between cases, they may be called upon to do any of the following roles:
evaluation of possible malingering (making it seem as though you are unfit to testify or present yourself in court due to illness, mental or otherwise)
assessment of mental state for insanity plea
competency to stand trial
prediction of violence and assessment of risk
evaluation of child custody in divorce
assessment of personal injury
interpretation of polygraph data (a polygraph is an instrument that records changes in things that relate to psychological processes, such as blood pressure and respiration, it is often used as a lie detector)
specialized forensic personality assessment
Academic forensic psychologists engage in teaching, research, training and supervision of students. They usually have an advanced degree in Psychology (most likely a PhD) and they can be employed at colleges and universities, research institutes, government or private agencies, and mental health agencies. Researchers test hypotheses via observing or testing, and apply the research on issues related to psychology and the law. They may also conduct research on mental health law and policy evaluation.
Forensic psychologists are employed in a variety of areas, including:
Courts and other tribunals.
Mental health (both general services and forensic mental health services).
Corrections (adult and juvenile, prisons and community).
Family services (e.g., family violence counselling services, parent training programs).
Alcohol and other drug services.
Rehabilitation services (e.g., pain clinics, head injury services).
Academia, research and policy organisations
Consultant to law enforcement
Forensic psychologists also assist with law enforcement. They work in collaboration with the police force or other law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement psychologists are responsible for assisting law enforcement personnel and are frequently trained to help with crisis intervention such as post-trauma and suicide. They also can be responsible for the following duties: the development of police training programs, stress management, personnel management, and referral of departmental personnel as well as their families for specialized treatment and counselling.
Correctional psychologists work with inmates and offenders in correctional settings. They act as both the evaluator and the treatment provider to those imprisoned, on parole or probation. Correctional psychologists may also take on the role of researcher or expert witness.
These forensic psychologists evaluate those in criminal or civil cases on mental health issues related to their case. For criminal cases, they could be requested to evaluate issues such as: the defendants’ competency to stand trial, their mental state at the time of the offense, and their risk for future violent acts. For civil cases they may be asked to evaluate issues such as an individual’s psychological state after an accident or the families of custody cases.
Any assessment made by an evaluator is not considered a counseling session, and therefore whatever is said or done is not confidential.
Evaluators work closely with expert witnesses as many are called into court to testify what they have concuded from their evaluations. Evaluators can be employed in: forensic and state psychiatric hospitals, mental health centers, and private practices. Evaluators usually have had training as clinical psychologists.
Unlike fact witnesses, who who can only testify as to what they know or have observed, expert witnesses have the ability to express opinion because they possess specialized knowledge about the topic. Expert witnesses are expected to testify on matters of mental health or other areas of expertise such as social, experimental, cognitive, or developmental. This role is rarely a primary one, instead is often used in conjunction with another practice. Clinical forensic psychologists evaluate a defendant and are then called upon as expert witnesses to testify on the mental state of the defendant in court.
Treatment providers are forensic psychologists who administer psychological treatment or intervention to those who request these services in both criminal and civil cases. In criminal cases, treatment providers could be asked to provide a psychological intervention to someone who requires treatment in order for them to be competent to stand trial. Treatment providers and evaluators work in the same types of settings: forensic and state psychiatric hospitals, mental health centers, and private practices and their roles overlap each other.
Forensic psychologists often are involved in trial consulting. A trial consultant is a social scientist who works with legal professionals such as trial attorneys to help them with case preparation. This includes the selection of jury, development of case strategy and witness preparation. They rely heavily on research.
Trial consultants only need to undergo some form of training to become able in this area of forensic psychology.
Trial consultants are hired by attorneys and are therefore not the final decision makers in any matters of the case.
There are many different professional positions and employment possibilities within forensic psychology.
What are the typical duties?
Forensic psychologists are required to have an extensive knowledge of the law and the legal situation in order to be able to properly evaluate each client, prepare for testimony and present the testimony in court.
As well as knowing legal jargon, they must also have a firm grasp on the psychological aspect of what they do; giving them the ability to integrate the knowledge they obtain from testing, status exams (psychological and mental) and appropriate background materials (such as police reports and prior evaluations from psychiatrists or psychologists) into a legal atmosphere.
A forensic psychologist would be appointed by the court to examine and assess the accused if there is doubt about the individual's capability to stand trial.
The individual could be released on bail or held in custody, and based on the forensic assessment the forensic psychologist gives the court a recommendation as to whether the defendant is 'competent to proceed to trial.' If they are said to be incompetent to proceed, the testimony given to the court by the forensic psychologist will include recommendations for the interim period - during which an attempt will be made to restore the defendant's ability to understand the legal proceedings, as well as their ability to participate appropriately in their defense. Often in this situation the forensic psychologist will advise the defendant to be sent to a psychiatric treatment facility until they are deemed competent to appear again in court.
The forensic psychologist may be appointed by the court to evaluate the defendant's state of mind at the time of the offense. These are defendants who the judge, prosecutor or public defender believe, through personal interaction with the defendant or through reading the police report, may have been significantly impaired at the time of the offense. In other situations, the defense attorney may decide to have the defendant plead not guilty by reason of insanity. In this case, usually the court appoints forensic evaluators and the defense may hire their own forensic expert.
*a mitigation is the act of reducing the severity of something, in this case the defendants' sentence
Even in situations where the defendant's mental disorder does not meet the criteria for a
not guilty by reason of insanity
defense, their state of mind at the time can be used to attempt to reduce the seriousness of the sentence. The forensic psychologist's evaluation and report is an important element in presenting evidence for sentence mitigation.
Forensic psychologists are also often asked to make an assessment of an individual's dangerousness or risk of re-offending.
What Qualifications are required?
'In order to practice in this field, you have to
earn a doctorate
, which requires at least
4 years of graduate education
of a bachelors degree
. During the last year of your doctoral program, you will begin a
that usually lasts for
. Once you have earned your doctorate, you will complete the last year of your work experience. You are then eligible to
apply for the psychology licensing examination
Skills and competencies of forensic psychologists
Collecting and reporting (both in written reports and oral) evidence of a psychological nature for use in legal and quasi-legal proceedings.
Psychological assessment and report writing.
Psychological formulation and diagnosis.
Psychological intervention (psychoeducation; individual, group and family psychotherapies; rehabilitation).
One vital qualification of a forensic psychologist is the ability to translate psychological reports into legal language, as the psychologist's findings are only useful in court if the jury and lawyers can understand them.
While being a forensic psychologist requires plenty of education and certification, it also requires the ability to handle the information that's presented during an evaluation of a person in a criminal trial.
What type of treatment can forensic psychologists give?
What does a consultation involve?
A forensic psychologist's interactions with and ethical responsibilities to the client differ widely from those of a psychologist dealing with a client in a clinical setting
A forensic psychologist addresses a narrowly defined set of events or interactions of a nonclinical nature as opposed to the broad range of issues that other psychologists deal with.
Importance of client's perspective.
Forensic psychologist's are primarily interested in accuracy, and the client's viewpoint is secondary.
Usually in a clinical setting a psychologist is dealing with a voluntary client. A forensic psychologist evaluates clients by order of a judge or at the behest of an attorney.
Relationship and dynamics.
Because forensic psychologists have divided loyalties, the amount of confidentiality they can guarantee their clients is significantly lesser than that that of a therapeutic psychologist.
A forensic evaluator must always be aware of manipulation in the adversary context of a legal setting. This means that forensic psychologists have to maintain emotional distance from their client in order to evaluate them more accurately.
Pace and setting.
Forensic Psychologists are controlled by many factors that place significant time constraints on the evaluation. They are also unlikely to ever have the opportunity to reevaluate any client so the forensic examiner focuses on attaining accuracy in every evaluation.
It is important to note that
forensic psychologists are not an advocate for their clients.
Nothing their client says is guaranteed to be kept confidential
, which usually makes evaluation of the client more difficult as it is not always in the clients best interest to provide the forensic psychologist with all the information that they want.
A forensic psychologist can be trained in clinical, social, organizational or any other branch of psychology
A forensic psychologist is often appointed by the court to
assess a defendant's competency to stand trial
. The court also appoints a forensic psychologist to
assess the defendant's state of mind at the time of the offense
Forensic psychologists may be requested to provide
sentencing recommendations, treatment recommendations, information regarding assessment of future risk
evaluation of witness credibility
Forensic psychology also involves
training and evaluating police or other law enforcement personnel
providing law enforcement with criminal profiles.
The average salary for a forensic psychologist is $83,900 annually.
The lowest 10% of all psychologists earn less than $37,900 per year and the highest 10% earn more than $106,800.
Forensic psychologists use psychology to work with people involved in all aspects of the criminal justice and civil court systems. Some of their duties include evaluating criminal suspects to see if they show evidence of mental illness or assessing how likely a convicted criminal is to commit another crime.
They are employed at jails or prisons to counsel inmates who struggle with mental health illnesses and psychological problems and create treatment plans to help them recover.
Some forensic psychologists work in civil cases like child custody disputes to determine the best place for a child’s welfare. They are also required testify in court about psychological topics.
Other forensic psychologists choose to conduct academic research rather than counsel people.
It usually takes people 8 to 10 years to become a licensed forensic psychologist.
Forensic Psychologists both refer their clients for treatments and provide them, depending on what role they are in and in what facility.
in this field administer treatments to their clients, others only make recommendations and/or referrals.
Forensic psychologists are asked by judges to make treatment recommendations for a defendant in court. However, they themselves do not always administer this treatment.
The main treatment role within forensic psychology is that of a
Treatment providers are forensic psychologists who administer psychological intervention or treatment to individuals in both criminal and civil cases who require or request these services
Their work overlaps greatly with that of an evaluator, but it is not advised for the same forensic psychologist to take on the role of treatment provider and evaluator for the same client.