What is Forensic Psychology?

forensic psychologyForensic psychology is the branch of psychology that interacts with the law.  Forensic psychologists are required to have a thorough understanding of the country’s judicial system and criminal law, in order to be seen as credible witnesses and to foster appropriate and effective communication with lawyers, judges and other courtroom personnel. They are often called upon to convey psychological findings in a manner which facilitates easy comprehension in a courtroom setting.

[showmyads] The field of forensic psychology has seen significant growth in recent times. This increased interest is partly due to the powerful influence of the media; brilliant protagonists in TV shows, films and books are often shown catching serial killers and solving heinous crimes on the streets by applying psychological theories. In the real world however, forensic psychologists can be found working “in prisons, jails, rehabilitation centers, police departments, law firms, schools, government agencies, or in private practice” (Mauro, 2010).

Mauro (2010) states the following:

Psychologists working in applied forensic psychology settings may provide a multitude of services, too many to fully describe here. Generally though, psychologists working in corrections may attend to the mental healthcare needs of inmates including, screening, psychological assessment, individual therapy, group therapy, anger management, crisis management, court-ordered evaluations, or daily inpatient rounds. They may also consult with prison staff, inmate attorneys, advocates, and court systems on a variety of mental health related topics or recommendations garnered as a result of psychological assessment. Psychologists working directly with attorneys may provide psychological assessment, personality assessment, assessment of mitigating factors, assessment of sexual offenders, competency evaluations, and recommendations for parental custody or visitation, to list just a few. Psychologists working in police departments often provide services for the department employees, such as counseling or crisis management.

 

Forensic psychology differs from clinical/therapeutic evaluation in a few key ways. For instance, the scope and duration of forensic psychology is much narrower and shorter when compared to the broad range of issues psychologists might cover in a clinical setting. Secondly, forensic psychologists typically obtain clients at the behest of judges or attorneys. This is in stark contrast to practicers of clinical psychology who often assist clients who make themselves available of their own free will. A clinical psychologist is primarily interested in the client’s personal opinion and point of view. A forensic psychologist is primarily focused on the facts and client accuracy.

Reference

Mauro, M. (2010). Take all prisoners. Psychology Today. Retrieved February 11, 2012 from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/take-all-prisoners/201006/what-is-forensic-psychology

Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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