What is a Forensic Psychologist? We're happy you asked. Here are some interesting facts—and Online degree information—about this exciting
The forensic psychologist in today’s court room has a great deal of responsibility. Forensic Psychology is the combination of Psychology with America’s legal system. The forensic psychologist is involved primarily in interpreting psychological issues into legal ones in a way that a court can understand. Thus, this individual will be trained in clinical, social, organizational—or any other branch of psychology, and will use his or her knowledge to answer legal questions about the mental state of an individual at the time a crime was committed, about the defendant’s competency to stand trial, and about sentencing or treatment recommendations.
The person who would become a forensic psychologist must have a strong interest, not only in the field of psychology, but also in criminal justice and in the American judicial system. He / she is expected to know the philosophy, rules, and standards of the courtroom and legal proceedings, and be able to present psychological issues according to those standards.
The responsibilities of the forensic psychologist in relation to the client are quite different from those of a clinical psychologist who may be providing therapy on a doctor / patient relationship basis. The forensic psychologist, for example, is less concerned with the client’s particular view point or opinion and more concerned with the accuracy of the client’s statements. Also, in a clinical setting, the client’s participation is usually voluntary while in a forensic setting, the client may have been given a court order to testify. The forensic psychologist cannot offer confidentiality and cannot provide “therapy” intended to help the client as that would compromise the validity of the psychological evaluation. The forensic psychologist works to get at the truth and to suggest solutions that best serve the community.
While forensic psychologists perform a wide range of tasks, their primary responsibility is to prepare and provide testimony in a courtroom. They also do not take sides and are as likely to be testifying for the prosecution as they are for the defense. They must be highly skilled as attorneys are particularly adept at tearing apart psychological testimony.
A person in a forensic psychology program will take courses in Behavior and Psychology, in criminal behavior, individual assessment, psychology of victims, police force psychology, evaluation and treatment of offenders, correctional psychology, and counseling, just to name a few. The regimen is challenging but is also one of the most fascinating courses of study a person could find as it develops an understanding of both the psychology of people in different types of careers, environments and legal situations and of the inner workings of the American legal system to a degree rarely attained by people in other career fields.