Forensic psychology is applying the methods and science of psychology to answering questions relating to a legal issue or a particular judicial process. For example, let us talk about a classic not guilty by reason of insanity case. Although these cases are rarely successful, they are probably the most well-known cases involving expert witnesses with a specialization in forensic psychology.
In most states for someone to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, it must be established that the defendant did not have an understanding of the wrongfulness of their behavior at the time they committed their crime. Consider a person who was so mentally impaired at the time they committed their crime that they did not show evidence of planning the crime ahead of time, an effort to conceal their identity during the commission of the crime or an effort to escape after committing the crime. They may have years and years of psychiatric treatment records. They may even have a history of being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the past. Obviously, these are factors that would be relevant to even a layman taking a stab at addressing the question of whether or not such a particular individual understood the wrongfulness of their behavior at the time they committed a crime.
However, imagine if a psychologist was on the job. Not only would they analyze this obvious information of relevance to the case, but they could also interview this defendant and administer psychological testing and conduct research regarding the percentage likelihood that this particular individual with a particular disorder in fact did not have an understanding of the wrongfulness of their behavior when they committed a crime.
They may also be able to use specific psychological instruments as opposed to general mental health assessments to test this defendant. These test scores could then be compared against the profiles of people who were truly not guilty by reason of insanity versus those that were not as determined by a jury. Psychologists can administer tests of symptom exaggeration to see if the defendant is faking it.
These interviewing, testing and research methods are all within the purview of psychology and psychologists in general. However, applying these methods and principles of psychology to the specific question that is related to a legal issue thereby makes this work forensic psychology practice.
Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that to be an excellent forensic psychologist, you really have to be an excellent psychologist in general. Certainly, there are other skills you need for the specialty of forensic psychology that are necessary to be effective in this area. These skills include how to handle testimony and particularly cross-examination, how to identify a specific psycholegal question, how to ethically engage in forensic psychology practice given the unique ethical requirements and how to resist strong partisan pressures placed on these professionals by attorneys, examinees, and family members they are interviewing.
So, there you have it! This is the practice of forensic psychology. Are you surprised? We’d love to hear your comments below.
Forensic psychology is a rather young specialization within the area of professional psychology. Most of the prolific authors in this area of psychology are still living and still publishing. If you are looking for some book recommendations as an undergraduate student aspiring to become a forensic psychologist one day, then we would like to direct your attention to the best practices series produced by Oxford University Press in the area of forensic mental health assessment. These books are concise, typically short and have various charts and bullet points of information that help readers to quickly digest them. Some forensic psychology books are extremely long and dense like those thick reference books you see within the bookcases of various lawyers. Those are not the books for undergraduate students interested in this career. However, the Oxford University Press series on forensic mental health could be for you.
This series was edited by Kirk Heilbrun, Tom Grisso and Alan Goldstein. They have all published some of those rather thick books mentioned above but really produced something good for us with this book series amounting to about 19 books in total. This series is organized into three sections based on criminal, civil, and family law. The authors of each book are well known within their subspecialty, whether it is an evaluation of competence to stand trial, evaluation of sexually violent predators, guardianship disability, parenting capacity, etc.
By checking out these books, you may get a sense of what jobs in the field of forensic psychology would be best-suited for you. However, most importantly you will see the similarities that cut across these unique jobs in terms of what forensic psychologists are actually doing on a day-to-day basis. Also, these books are relatively inexpensive and are frequently available via Kindle and other e-reader devices.
If you happened to stumble across this site as a psychologist looking for information on how to specialize in forensic psychology, then we suggest for you to check out Eric Mart’s book titled Getting Started in Forensic Psychology Practice. However, as undergraduates, this is not the book for us and frankly the book for us may be limited to whatever is available in our University’s library. My University happens to carry the first book in the Oxford University Press Series on forensic psychology and we hope your library does as well.
If you are interested in some serious in-depth reading concerning the field of forensic psychology, then you might want to look towards the American Board of the Professional Psychology’s recommended reading list for preparation to complete the written examination for Board Certification. Many of the Oxford University Press books are included within this reading list as well as several other very important texts within the field of forensic psychology. Happy reading. Any questions?
Before we go on to determine What is Criminal Psychology, let us first define, what exactly is a Crime?
In general terms, crimes are acts that break the law of a particular country. The Oxford English Dictionary defines crime as:
“An act punishable by law, as being forbidden by statute or injurious to the public welfare. An evil or injurious act, an offense, sin, especially of a grave character.”
We must say, though, that this is a simplified view of a crime. There is no such thing as a simple and objective definition of a crime. Crimes are defined by societies, culture and the time that we live in. Therefore, we can say that the meaning of a crime is actually a social construction. Therefore, there a “grey areas” in defining of what the crime is.
For example, these acts may be considered a crime in some societies, but just immoral or antisocial in others:
• Drinking alcohol
• Taking drugs
• Killing in self-defense
• Killing during a war
• Failing to join the army (in a war time)
So we have discussed crime, let us now define the term of Criminal Psychology.
Criminal psychology is a discipline that merges psychology and criminal justice. Criminal psychology is an important part of the justice system. The study of criminal psychology goes deeply into what makes someone commit a crime, but also the reactions after the crime, on the run and in court. Criminal psychologists are often called up as witnesses in court to help the jury understand the mind of the criminal. Criminal psychologists work closely with attorneys, courts, law enforcement agencies, and various other parties involved in civil and criminal cases. It is a relatively young field of work, gaining recognition from the American Psychological Association in 2001.
And what is a criminal psychologist?
A criminal psychologist is a specialist who deals with the psychological aspects of the legal process. With the background in criminology and psychology, these psychologists are experts in mental states and behavior of criminals. Criminal psychologists work with potential suspects or proven criminals in order to investigate their mental state.
The goals of criminal psychologist include:
• Understanding the psychological problems associated with criminal behavior
• Treatment of criminals
• Applying theory to criminal investigations.
Criminal psychologists will cover a range of roles, such as:
• Research evidence to support practice
• Appear in court as an expert witness
• Crime analysis
• Implementing treatment programs
• Modifying offender behavior
• Advising parole boards
• Responding to changing needs of prisoners and staff
• Stress management techniques for staff and prisoners
• Statistical analysis used for prisoner profiling
• Use psychological testing to assess offenders
• Provide psychological reports to the defense/prosecution
• Mental health tribunals.
In this article, we tried to answer the question “What is Criminal Psychology”. To define Criminal Psychology, we first needed to define the underlying term of a crime.
Forensic Psychology Definition:
How to define forensic psychology? The application of psychological data, process, theory and science to the judicial process.
What is a Forensic Psychiatrist? Great question. It’s a medical sub-specialty of psychiatry that applies the science of psychiatry to the judicial process.
Clinical forensic psychology is the application of clinical psychology to assist in the legal process, typically by way of assessment, interviewing, testing, report writing and testimony.
What is a forensic psychologist and other forensic psychology questions presented by our visitors (typically students) is why we teamed up to form the forensic psychology coalition. The definition of forensic psychology explains what’s a forensic psychologist.
Criminal psychology degree seekers are a unique bunch (lol). These students want to spend their careers behind bars working with inmates. A master’s level counseling degree (e.g., LCSW, MSW, LPC, etc.) or a doctorate in psychology or psychiatry is what you’ll need. Consider volunteering at your local prison to make sure this is the job for you.
Forensic psychology internships are competitive. We have brought together some information about this for our visitors. Forensic psychology internships aren’t plentiful by any means, but the good news is that we’re looking for interns here at the coalition.