What is a Forensic Psychologist? (Complete Overview)

What is a Forensic Psychologist? (Complete Overview)

In this blog we will discuss the question ‘What is a forensic Psychologist?’ and give an insight into this field of psychology. 

Forensic psychology can be defined as a specialization within the field of psychology that is a blend between Psychology and law.

The main part of forensic psychology is to work with the criminal justice system.

It contains two parts or roles first to research on human behaviors and how to prevent them, second the application of psychological practice to confer within the judicial system including crime and civil law.

What is a Forensic Psychologist? (Complete Overview)

History

Forensic psychology has been in existence for over 50 years and has gone through many changes throughout the decades. Since 1970 there has been an explosion of literature for all areas of forensic psychology.

The first foundation of forensic psychology was laid in 1879 by Wilhelm Wundt, who is also often known as the father of psychology.

He found his first forensic laboratory and since Wundt, many experts have contributed into the field, advancing it furthermore and making it flourish. 

  • A Forensic Psychologist assesses and deals with different human behaviors they evaluate and prepares for or provide testimony in court. 
  • Forensic Psychologists also help the court by evaluating or analyzing individuals who are suspected of committing a crime.
  • This allows the court system to decide whether a person can be held accountable for his or her actions while committing a crime.

Roles of a Forensic Psychologist

Unlike a clinical psychologist, who works with people suffering from different psychological disorders, a Forensic psychologists applies his knowledge of psychological principles and apply it to help find a purpose for the crime or to specify a suspect list.

The field is quite broad and so some psychologists may work in jails and prisons or even directly with attorneys.

Individuals pursuing forensic psychology may even be self-employed.

Some may work as advisors, or they may testify as expert witnesses.

  • A forensic psychologist assesses and evaluates the state of mind of the suspect in the time of the interview including appearance, behavior and cerebral function.
  • They assess the one on one risk of reoffending and consistency of factual information across multiple sources. They also assess child custody in divorce.
  • Enhance, implement and analyze suitable offender treatment and rehabilitation courses, including anger management, treatment for drug, social and intellectual and alcohol dependence skills exercises.
  • Provide exercises on how to cope with understanding mistreatment and techniques for crisis (hostage) negotiation or train to support forensic staff in areas such as anxiety management.
  • Be responsible for professional witness testimony at court, for parole boards and mental wellbeing courts.
  • Contribute to policy and strategic growth to guarantee constant service enhancement. They evaluate the success of various legal interventions or reforms.

Major themes in Forensic Psychology 

What is a Forensic Psychologist? (Complete Overview)

Criminal Behavior

Criminal forensic assessment focuses on such legal problems such as capability, criminal accountability, and risk calculation.

Advancements in these areas illustrate just some of the improvements that are taking place in the theme of forensic assessment.

Psychologists are there to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of theories in explaining the causes for offending and criminal behavior.

By evaluating these, it allows them to define key factors in determining what causes individuals to commit specific types of crimes which may be any social factors which influence a person to participate in any crime.

They predict the crime rates in an area by looking through the previous reports.

Child custody 

The issue of child custody is becoming more complex and common around the world.

A forensic child custody evaluation is a deep analysis that provides detailed psychological evidence of members of the family as it relates to their respective roles in the relationship between the parents and the child.

Forensic child custody evaluations are used in situations where parents cannot agree to the legal or residential custody of a child or if there are sincere claims of any type of abuse.

These reports are mostly ordered by the judges mainly when the guardians cannot come to an agreement about custodial agreements.

However, a judge may order a forensic child custody evaluation on his or her own decision during the hearing process, or a parent may request it.

Consultations 

Psychologists provide consultations with police on topics such as police selection, hostage negotiation, police stress, police community relations, and training to deal with domestic violence situations.

They mainly consult in the criminal cases within the legal system with attorneys on mental health issues in the court system.

They also provide a psychological autopsy to come up with a report determining the reasons for a possible suicide.

Psychologists evaluate civil issues by assessments of the competence of civilly committed patients to consent to treatment or research as well as the assessment of personal injury in civil action cases.

Death penalties 

Psychologists are often called upon to judge an offender’s capability to stand trial.

The decision such that if an individual is unable to stand trial requires the delay of criminal proceedings on the grounds that such offenders are not capable to participate in their defense on account of mental or physical disorder or retardation is assessed by a psychologist.

What is a Forensic Psychologist? (Complete Overview)

How does Forensic Psychology benefit the society

  • Forensic Psychology helps to evaluate the possibilities of re-offense and also offer help to the court to give out the appropriate sentences and granting honors.
  • Forensic Psychologists help the lawyers decide on the right members of a jury to determine the actual outcomes of a case, without a psychologist it would be very difficult to find a root cause of a problem.
  • Forensic Psychology is often used to conclude if the suspect was acting without the knowledge that what they were doing was erroneous. It also helps to decide the competency of the suspect in a courtroom.
  • Psychologists provide additional evidence to an already existing case in order to give the jury all of the information available before determining a verdict.  

Careers in Forensic Psychology 

Forensic Psychology is a young but a broad field. There are many great options for an individual who is interested in this field.

Such as a crime analyst, correctional officer, court liaison, witness expert, a forensic case manager and so on

The Department of Labor reports that the average salary of a Forensic Psychologist was $79,000.

The lowest-paid 25 percent of Forensic Psychologists earn less than $66,804 per year, while the highest-paid 25 percent earn more than $80,013. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.

Some countries have a higher demand for forensic psychologists, and often those areas offer more competitive rates for those who are highly qualified.

What is a Forensic Psychologist? (Complete Overview)

Above, we have discussed the question ‘What is a Forensic psychologist?’ and highlighted the field of forensic psychology. 

Titles to read 

  • Becoming a Forensic Psychologist

by David DeMatteo, Jaymes Fairfax-Columbo, et al.

  • From Deep Within: A Forensic and Clinical Psychologist’s Journey

by Susan J Lewis

  • Forensic Reports and Testimony: A Guide to Effective Communication for Psychologists and Psychiatrists

by Randy K. Otto , Richart DeMier, et al.

  • Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application

by Curtis R. Bartol and Anne M. Bartol

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) What is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic Psychology is an area of psychology specifically geared to individuals involved in the legal system, either criminally or civilly.

This could involve someone facing criminal charges or someone who has recently been released from incarceration.

This could also pertain to someone who is involved in divorce, spousal support, and guardianship and/or conservatorship proceedings.

Q2) What type of education is required to become a Forensic Psychologist?

A Forensic Psychologist must obtain a doctorate degree in psychology, complete a pre-doctoral internship and a postdoctoral fellowship and obtain a license in the state in which he/she chooses to practice.

Q3) How do I know if I need a forensic evaluation?

This is something that a judge will court order at his /her preference or that a defense or accusing attorney will request.

At times, a forensic evaluation is required by an individual’s Probation Officer as well.

If you have legal counsel, it is always best to consult him/her so you are aware of exactly what you are in need of.

Q4) As a forensic psychologist, Who will I work with? 

•Those who have chronic difficulties

•Those at risk of offending as a consequence of their behavior

•Family members

•Victims

•The public affected by crime

Citations 

  • https://www.learnpsychology.org/forensic-psychology/
  • https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263179161_Essay_Psychological_Explanations_of_Criminal_Behaviour
  • https://www.allpsychologyschools.com/forensic-psychology/job-description/
  • https://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/forensic-psychology/
  • www.apa.org 

What is a Forensic Psychologist? (Complete Overview)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.