The Forensic Psychology Coalition

Books About Forensic Psychology

By Grishma Ghelani

Forensic psychology applies the science of psychology in the legal field. Forensic psychologists play an essential role in the outcome of a legal case. Whether you are a student aspiring to become a forensic psychologist, a forensic psychologist yourself or in general intrigued by this field, there are many helpful books and scholarly material you could use to educate yourself.

Books about forensic psychology provide a coherent overview of topics ranging from court proceedings to psychological assessments, criminal profiling, investigative procedures, interviewing children in foster care, examining thought processes of alleged murderers and much more!

The list is not exhaustive; however, the following are books essential to your reading list if you aim to have good knowledge and understanding of the areas within forensic psychology. This list will provide you with tools not only to academically jumpstart your learning experience but also enhance your knowledge in this growing stream.

1.     Forensic Psychology: A Very Short Introduction by David Canter

“This fascinating Very Short Introduction discusses all the aspects of psychology that are relevant to the legal and criminal process as a whole. It includes explanations of criminal behavior and criminality, including the role of mental disorder in crime, and it reveals how forensic psychology contributes to helping investigate the crime and catching the perpetrators. David Canter also explains how psychologists provide guidance to all those involved in civil and criminal court proceedings, including both the police and the accused, and what expert testimony can be provided by a psychologist about the offender at the trial. Finally, Canter describes how forensic psychology is used, particularly in prisons, to help in the management, treatment and rehabilitation of offenders, once they have been convicted”.

2.     Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application by Curt R. Bartol, Anne M. Bartol
“Filled with real life examples, practical applications, and case law discussions, this proven text covers new and emerging fields of study, the many areas where psychology plays a significant role in the civil and criminal justice systems, and the wide range of issues that are an integral part of the forensic psychologist s day-to-day work”

3.     Forensic Psychology: From Classroom to Courtroom  by Brent Van Dorsten

“This book includes a discussion of the propagation of forensic psychology as a field of specialization, professional preparation issues for training as a forensic psychologist, unique ethical concerns, and an authoritative discussion of issues in several prominent areas of forensic psychology practice”

4.     Forensic and Criminal Psychology by Dennis Howitt

“This book provides a thorough introduction to the major issues and findings of modern forensic and criminal psychology. The lively text is designed to maximize its practical usefulness to students of the field at any level. It is the most comprehensive single volume covering the broadest range of issues from the childhood of offenders through to assessing risk of future offending. All stages of the process are covered, including police psychology, investigative psychology, interviewing, judges and juries, prison and many other topics”.

5.     Psychological Evaluations for the Courts, Third Edition: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers by Gary B. Melton,‎ John Petrila,‎ Norman G. Poythress

“This is the definitive reference and text for both mental health and legal professionals. The authors offer a uniquely comprehensive discussion of the legal and clinical contexts of forensic assessment, along with best-practice guidelines for participating effectively and ethically in a wide range of criminal and civil proceedings. Presented are findings, instruments, and procedures related to criminal and civil competencies, civil commitment, sentencing, personal injury claims, antidiscrimination laws, child custody, juvenile justice, and more”.

6.     Investigative Psychology: Offender Profiling and the Analysis of Criminal Action by David V. Canter and Donna Youngs

“This ground-breaking text is the first to provide a detailed overview of Investigative Psychology, from the earliest work through to recent studies, including descriptions of previously unpublished internal reports. Crucially it provides a framework for students to explore this exciting terrain, combining Narrative Theory and an Action Systems framework. It includes empirically tested models for Offender Profiling and guidance for investigations, as well as an agenda for research in Investigative Psychology.

In effect, this text introduces an exciting new paradigm for a wide range of psychological contributions to all forms of investigation within and outside of law enforcement. Each chapter has actual cases and quotations from offenders and ends with questions for discussion and research, making this a valuable text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Applied and Forensic Psychology, Criminology, Socio-Legal Studies and related disciplines”.
7.     Minds on Trial: Great Cases in Law and Psychology by Charles Patrick Ewing and Joseph T. McCann

“In recent years, the public has become increasingly fascinated with the criminal mind. Television series centered on courtroom trials, criminal investigations, and forensic psychology are more popular than ever. More and more people are interested in the American system of justice and the individuals who experience it firsthand.

Minds on Trial: Great Cases in Law and Psychology gives you an inside view of 20 of the highest profile legal cases of the last 50 years. Drs. Ewing and McCann take you “behind the scenes” of each of these cases, some involving celebrities like Woody Allen, Mike Tyson, and Patty Hearst, and explain the impact they had on the fields of psychology and the law. Many of the cases in this book, whether involving a celebrity client or an ordinary person in an extraordinary circumstance, were determined in part by the expert testimony of a psychologist or other mental health professional. Psychology has always played a vital role in so many aspects of the American legal system, and these fascinating trials offer insight into many intriguing psychological issues. In addition to expert testimony, some of the issues discussed in this entertaining and educational book include the insanity defense, brainwashing, criminal profiling, capital punishment, child custody, juvenile delinquency, and false confessions.

In Minds on Trial, the authors skillfully convey the psychological and legal drama of each case, while providing important and fresh professional insights. Mental health and legal professionals, as well as others with an interest in psychology and the law will have a hard time putting this scholarly, yet readable book down”.

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Undergraduate Student Mentee Interview with Forensic Psychologist Mentor

forensic psychologist meeting with student

Student Mentee: I saw that your had your own firm, and I was just wondering what your day-to-day responsibilities were and what it is like to be a forensic psychologist.

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: So, a forensic psychologist is essentially a psychologist that has gone on to develop an understanding an expertise in the legal process as it overlaps with psychological practice.

We use psychological methods, like interviewing people and psychological testing, in order to assist the judicial system with making legal determinations concerning a variety of different issues (potentially a law suit due to a motor vehicle accident or potentially whether or not someone is suitable and meets the standards to be executed under the death penalty). So, there is a variety of different ways that we use our tools as psychologists in order to help the legal system.

When you are engaged in that type of work, and when you are using psychology that way, then you are practicing as a forensic psychologist.

So, on a day-to-day basis, I am interviewing people, I am administering psychological testing, I am writing long reports that are very scientifically detailed, so that they are prepared for scrutiny in courts. Then on occasion, I have to attend depositions or trials to testify before a judge or jury about that report. So that is what my day-to-day looks like.

Student Mentee: Wow, that is very interesting….I am just wondering how would you suggest that I find internships or opportunities to get meaningful experiences out of it.

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: That is a tough question because of what you alluded to. If a law firm refers someone to me, it is often the case that that firm may not be comfortable with someone observing the interview or being present. Essentially, you can end up being called as some type of witness in court and that will be problematic for a variety of reasons, right? As an intern.

A lot of the agencies we deal with are very concerned about the privacy rights of individuals because it is not like these individuals are choosing to come to us often times. They are being required to. In other words, their liberties are being taken away from them and they are being forced to come and see us. So, to have someone else observe it, that is just even more of an infringement upon their privacy; and agencies are often reluctant to allow that.

I believe that the closest you would be able to consistently see the work of a forensic psychologist at your stage would be to work in some type of jail or prison as an intern. This is technically known as correctional psychology, but these correctional psychologists are assessing people emergently and determining whether or not they are competent, and what’s their risk for re-offense as they near their release date.

So, I would suggest checking out local prisons and jails to see what is happening. I do not suggest cold-calling forensic psychologist or randomly e-mailing them saying hi; because believe it or not, we actually get a lot of those emails from people, a lot of them. And usually, they get ignored. So, I do not suggest doing that.

Student Mentee: Okay. I just wanted to ask, I am not a US citizen, so do you think that local jails and prisons and like law enforcement would like consider that like in taking on a student, who is not a US citizen?

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: Okay, I am uncertain because I have never been presented with that issue before. I can tell you when I go into a correctional environment, they usually want to run a background check on me first. They ask for my social security number and address; and when I go there, they want to see ID like a driver’s license. So, if you don’t have a social security number and you don’t have a driver’s license then I am not sure how they will process your background to determine that you are safe to enter into the facility.

Student Mentee: Right. So, you do not think that my passport or like my I-20 or like any of those documents would be allowed.

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: So, I would have to guess, which is something a forensic psychologist doesn’t like to do. We do not want to do things based on inference, but if I had to guess, I would say no.

Student Mentee: Okay great. So my next question was just about applying to graduate school and I again saw in your bio that you had pre-doctoral experiences. Was that before graduate school, just to be sure? What experiences do you think that you had the most important that you believe make you stand out?

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: You have to have the basics as you know GPA has to be up there, you have to have a good GRE score, both the regular GRE and the subject specific GRE in psychology. So, assuming that all of those things are there, I think you will standout if you’re bilingual, which I trust you are. That would help you. Your ability to relocate is something that would be helpful. If you are trying to just stay in the New York area, there is a lot of aspiring psychologists there; so, it can become challenging.

Student Mentee: So, my next question is about research and whether you think that is part of it. How do I find research and like get people to let me assist; particularly in forensic psychology?

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: So the specialization in the area of forensic psychology does not occur until postdoctoral years, meaning after you have already completed graduate school, master’s and doctor degree. At that point, people start becoming more experienced and specialized in the area of forensic practice. I would not suggest solely going after forensic mental health research experiences. I would suggest just finding a professor that you know has active research going on and it seems like a professor whose personality you enjoy, that seems very approachable. Tell them you would like to become involved and volunteer. That is what I did and that paid off for me. I was picked up by a social psychologist, and I was able to use that as a benefit in my application for graduate school. I also got a job at a residential treatment program for severe and persistent mental illness. So, I got a job there essentially just observing their behavior, taking light case notes and just getting exposed to what psychopathology looks like. That also helped my application. I did not pursue anything forensic specific until my fourth year of my doctoral training when I got a job working in a prison.

Student Mentee: Okay, that is interesting. That is good to know.

I was actually aiming to go to a graduate school in the UK, they have a great program there in doctorate in clinical forensic psychology. It is a three-year program and it is a masters in criminology and that sort of might be combined here in the US after I graduate. It is better for me financially. So if I do get into a good school here and I will try my best and I will receive As then I will stay, but I would have to leave the country if not, so, I am going to be pursuing that course of that sort.

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: Something you should know is that many (if not most) doctoral programs that I am aware of, that are university-based, waive your tuition; meaning, they actually pay you to go there. You will be paid a stipend to teach undergraduate courses and to help out with research. So, in terms of tuition, I did not have to pay anything. I was not aware of that until I actually went to interview that if I get in it will be free, so that was really good news to here at that time.

Student Mentee: Yeah, definitely that is. So that’s pretty great news.

Forensic Psychologist Mentor: This is only university based programs; however, not professional schools.

Student Mentee: Right, that makes sense. Okay that is the really good thing to hear. I would definitely look into that more.

Ask the mentor: testimony and politics

ANAYA CHAUDHARY of Forensic PsychologyRecently, one of our mentors was asked a really great question. A student inquired about whether politics impact the testimony experts deliver. The official answer is no.

The services conducted by forensic psychologists involved the application of a well-accepted methodology reliably applied to the details of the case.

Now, it is important to know that politics as a cultural issue should and will impact the expert’s case formulation. However, it is not the expert’s culture or political leanings that should drive the opinions. Rather, it should be the examinee’s culture and political leanings that should be factored into a comprehensive case formulation in the context of a forensic mental health assessment. However, it should not be factored into our reliable application of forensic mental health assessment methodology or our testimony depending on our personal political leanings.

What is it like in graduate school for forensic psychology?

Law libraryAfter undergrad, you’ll need at least 5 more years of school to become a forensic psychologist. You probably knew that, but let me tell you what is it like in graduate school for forensic psychology.

Your experiences in school as a teenager or young adult do not capture what it is like in graduate school for forensic psychology.

For one, during graduate school for forensic psychology (or any other subspecialty), you will only be taking about four classes per semester. It is expected that you’ll earn B’s and above in those classes. If not, you may find yourself on academic probation. C’s are not acceptable in graduate school.

Scantron tests are rare. The knowledge will typically be tested through writing lengthy papers and by completing practical tasks, such as successfully administering an IQ test upon a fellow classmate under the scrutiny of an observer. Presentations also comprise a large component of the way you will be assessed during graduate school for forensic psychology or any subspecialty in psychology.

Essentially, during undergraduate, you are a research consumer. During graduate school for forensic psychology, you are both a research consumer and producer. The amount of research you will be consuming is voluminous. The amount of reading you will be assigned to do will seem impossible. However, before you know it, you will be quickly digesting this research. Unlike an undergraduate, you’ll be expected to critique this research too.

In addition to the above, a great deal of your time in graduate school will be spent teaching undergraduate psychology courses, assisting professors with their research and providing therapy and assessment services in the graduate program’s psychology clinic.

Graduate school is hands on and good programs will offer this on-the-job training experience in addition to classroom-based work.

For example, during a five-year program, your fourth year will primarily be spent working at an outside externship providing psychology services, perhaps at a local community mental-health center. During externship, you’ll be working on your dissertation as opposed to taking many classes.

During your fifth year, most students will be matched with an internship site anywhere in the nation. While the student is on internship, he or she will be expected to be completing their dissertation.

Therefore, in that sense, the doctorate in psychology really only involves three years of in-the-classroom work. There are fewer classes to be taken per semester than undergrad, and your time will be split with on-the-job training.

How to Run Your Forensic Psychology Club Meetings

via The Robert’s Rules Process for Handling a Main Motion

Forensic Psychology Jobs

forensic psychology jobs

We recently had the opportunity to conduct a series of interviews with a variety of people holding different forensic psychology jobs to gain an understanding of what they in fact do on a day-to-day basis. To begin this series, we interviewed a forensic psychologist specializing in the area of assessing offenders sentenced to prison for sexually violent crimes to determine whether or not they are safe to reenter society after completing their sentence. Depending on the opinions, report and testimony of these experts, these offenders could be released or civilly committed at the completion of their sentence.

We found the work of this expert witness to be particularly interesting. He starts off his day by reviewing a very, very large amount of what he referred to as discovery. These materials included various records concerning the offender’s criminal history, mental health records, past evaluations, medical records, military service records, prison records and the list goes on. The stack of documents was larger than a yellow pages phonebook.

After reviewing this material, the psychologist assembled his psychological testing that he planned to administer, which included general paper and pencil tests to assess the offender’s mental health as well as specific tests based on mathematical equations to help determine the offender’s risk for re-offending.

Subsequently, the psychologist administered the testing and then conducted an interview with the offender. The interview was cut and dry. We did not notice anything therapeutic about it. Rather the expert appeared to gather facts like we would expect from let us say a newspaper reporter. The psychologist said he would then score this testing and capture the factual findings of the interview in a report. At the end of that report would be an opinion section wherein the psychologist’s opinions can be found that are based on the facts that he gathered from the interview as well as the findings of the psychological testing and the risk prediction measure. These opinions are focused upon addressing specific legal questions that are the focus of the judicial process as it relates to the psychological elements to legally decide upon civil commitment.

A couple of weeks later, the expert indicated his report totaled approximately 22 pages and also included collateral information he gathered from prison staff and others. According to him, this routine is similar to what is required for most forensic psychology jobs on a day-to-day basis.

Frankly, it was not what I thought I would be doing as a forensic psychologist. He spent two hours interviewing, which was nothing like Silence of the Lambs followed by from what he said amounted to eight hours of research, fact gathering, and report writing. Things pick up again if required to testify and at that point it may resemble something that you have seen on TV with one lawyer shooting you easy questions followed by another lawyer doing his or her best to rile you and to make you look incompetent, with objections being thrown out and judges trying to control the whole rigmarole.

However, according to this psychologist, it is more profitable to spend his days conducting evaluations rather than providing testimony. If he conducts two interviews in a day, he can bill for at least 20 hours. If he spends a day in court testifying, he can bill eight hours at best.

Forensic psychology jobs in our opinion appear to look more like writing jobs than anything else we have seen on television.

This website is focused on the needs of undergraduate students interested in forensic psychology and the material here is produced by students under the mentorship of various forensic psychologists. Therefore, we do not expect the goal of the reader visiting this website to be to find forensic psychology jobs; though, if it is, you may want to consider looking at State Psychological Association websites and LinkedIn, or joining the listserv associated with the forensic division of various psychological associations at the state level.

ENGAGE – CONTRIBUTE – LEVERAGE – PASS-DOWN

careers in forensic psychology

 

About Us

The data and trends concerning forensic psychology careers, and forensic psychologist’s salaries, are enticing. The nature of the work is dramatic. However, it’s difficult to access forensic psychologists and real-world facts about: how to become a forensic psychologist; and forensic psychology jobs. That’s why we’re here to help!

Why Subscribe

  • Helpful and practical articles for undergraduates interested in a forensic psychology career.
  • Information is written from a student perspective with oversight by practicing forensic psychologists.
  • Network with our editors, authors and subscribers.

Why Join

  • Support and guidance along your path to becoming a forensic psychologist.
  • Writing, research and professional development opportunities to strengthen your graduate school application.
  • Mentorship from a practicing forensic psychologists.

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Looking for a Forensic Psychologist to Mentor You?

need a mentor

 

About Us

The data and trends concerning forensic psychology careers, and forensic psychologist’s salaries, are enticing. The nature of the work is dramatic. However, it’s difficult to access forensic psychologists and real-world facts about: how to become a forensic psychologist; and forensic psychology jobs. That’s why we’re here to help!

Why Subscribe

  • Helpful and practical articles for undergraduates interested in a forensic psychology career.
  • Information is written from a student perspective with oversight by practicing forensic psychologists.
  • Network with our editors, authors and subscribers.

Why Join

  • Support and guidance along your path to becoming a forensic psychologist.
  • Writing, research and professional development opportunities to strengthen your graduate school application.
  • Mentorship from a practicing forensic psychologists.

shutterstock_375304261

Career in Forensic Psychology

careers in forensic psychology

Forensic psychology careers and information about careers in forensic psychology can be hard to find. Students involved in editing this blog have had classroom assignments to reach out to forensic psychologists and to interview them about their careers in forensic psychology. Some of us have tried to cold call and spam forensic psychologists for a few minutes of their time to share this valuable information about their forensic psychology career. However, we reached out to our network of mentors with careers in forensic psychology to bring you undergraduate students out there the following information about these careers. Here is what we found.

Forensic psychology is defined by the application of the science of psychology and its methods to the task of assisting the court in some type of judicial matter. By definition, this limits careers in forensic psychology. The bottom line is, psychologists will be using psychological methods, which include research, assessment and to some extent therapy, in order to answer various questions for the court.

Therefore, you may ask “if all of the forensic psychologists are doing the same things (research, assessment and therapy), then how varied can the careers in forensic psychology be? This is a good question. And from what we have been told, the variety is driven by the subspecialties in forensic psychology created by the areas of law that have intersections with the field of psychology. Here are some examples.

Some forensic psychologists focus on matters related to civil cases while others focus on matters related to family or criminal law. It is rarer for a forensic psychologist to legitimately claim to focus on all three of these areas; though, some do. In order to qualify for board certification in forensic psychology, you will be expected to produce two independent work samples demonstrating your knowledge in two separate areas of forensic psychology. Therefore, it is reasonable to claim to be competent in at least two of these areas. However, forensic psychologists claiming to be competent in 10 areas (across criminal, civil and family law) may face legitimate challenges to their competency.

One career in forensic psychology involves the assessment of competence to stand trial. From what we heard, this is the most popularly requested type of forensic mental health assessment. Psychologists apply the practices, principles and methods of psychology to inform the court on whether a defendant is able to intelligently, knowingly and purposefully participate in his/her trial. In the criminal arena, another career in forensic psychology involves assessing whether a defendant is able to understand the wrongfulness of their actions as a function of their mental state at the time of their offense. In other words, this career in forensic psychology involves assessing defendants to determine whether or not they could be found to be not guilty by reason of insanity.

In the civil arena, another career in forensic psychology involves assessing litigants to determine if they were psychologically harmed due to a particular action. If such harm is established, the lawyer that retains this forensic psychologist may introduce the forensic psychologist’s report at trial and call him or her for testimony in pursuit of monetary damages for that litigant. Another career in forensic psychology involves the assessment of sex offenders getting out of jail to determine whether or not they are safe to reenter the public after they have completed their debt to society. If found unsafe by that forensic psychologist, the former offender could be civilly committed for an indefinite period of time until he or she becomes safe to reenter society. While this might seem like a criminal career in forensic psychology, it is actually within the civil arena because this hypothetical offender would have already completed, or be on the verge of completing, their sentence for the crime they have committed.

Within the family law, careers in forensic psychology might include helping the court determine which parent is in the best interests of the child during a divorce custody dispute. Another career might involve assessing family members to determine whether or not a child has been harmed by a parent’s actions in a child protection matter. Another interesting career in forensic psychology involves the assessment of families in immigration cases to determine whether it would be an exceptional hardship for a father or mother to be deported and separated from the child or another family member and whether or not it would be an exceptional hardship for all of the family members to go to the country that the family member will be returning if deported.

I know many of you undergraduate students thought that careers in forensic psychology involved helping the police catch the bad guy. From what we understand, these professionals are rarely psychologists. Rather they are police officers with specialized training in behavioral profiling. There are forensic psychologists within police departments, but they typically spend their day assessing potential officers for their suitability to carry a firearm.

Many of you undergraduate students also thought forensic psychologists worked in prisons doing therapy. However, these professionals are known as correctional psychologists. Again, the definition of forensic psychology involves applying the practices, principles and methods of psychology in order to aid the court during a judicial process. Providing therapy to an offender who is already incarcerated and has completed their judicial process is great but has nothing to do with ongoing litigation or a question before the court. Thus, this is not a forensic psychology career.

Hopefully, the above has shed light on various careers in forensic psychology. Hopefully, many of you are not disappointed about what a forensic psychologist actually is doing on a day-to-day basis. Rather, we hope that you are happy to have learned that you can actually become a professional providing therapy in a prison, or a cop trying to capture the bad guy, with just a master’s degree as opposed to a doctoral degree and the postdoctoral experience that is required to be a forensic psychologist.

Rebeca Klein

REBECA KLEIN of Forensic Psychology Coalition