A Day In The Life of A Forensic Psychologist

Hierarchy of NeedsTV shows like CSI, Bones, and Criminal Minds have piqued the interest of viewers, especially towards Forensic Psychology. While the life of a forensic psychologist is not as action-packed as those you see on TV shows, it is nevertheless interesting.

In a broad sense, a forensic psychologist is someone who uses their clinical skills and training as a psychologist for legal purposes. They work either directly or indirectly with persons that have contact with the law. They lend their expertise to aid legal matters from criminal investigations to courtroom evaluations and expert witness testimony to criminal rehabilitation.

Forensic Psychologists and Law Enforcement

Forensic psychologists work hand-in-hand with law enforcement agencies, especially during criminal investigations. As most of you probably know from TV shows like Profiler, psychologists are often called in to discover what makes a perpetrator tick. While this doesn’t necessarily help police pin the crime down on one suspect, it helps narrow the field and determine potential victims.

In some cases, psychologists are called in the absence of a lawyer to ensure that police questioning of a suspect is unbiased. Sometimes, a certain line of questioning can be phrased suggestively to influence the mind of a suspect and manipulate a confession.

Forensic psychologists also help determine the accuracy of eyewitness accounts. They also offer services to eyewitnesses who are traumatized by what they saw. This is especially true for child witnesses who witness gruesome events. Forensic psychologists not only help eyewitnesses recover from traumatic experiences, they also ensure that eyewitness accounts are as accurate as they can be.

Law enforcers can also have psychological issues. Many police officers suffer from PTSD when they gun someone down, or they develop anger issues due to their line of work. Forensic psychologists often conduct evaluations to determine whether or not police officers are fit to work and offer psychological treatment for those with issues.

In the Courtroom

Forensic psychologists are often called in as expert witnesses in court proceedings, working for either the prosecution or defense, depending on the situation.

As a prosecution witness, the forensic psychologist is often asked regarding meetings with the suspect. Often, this is done to establish that the suspect exhibits a certain type of behavior that fits perfectly with the perpetrator of the crime. The forensic psychologist is often asked about the suspect’s previous behavior and any criminal tendencies. It is the forensic psychologist’s job to give his expert opinion on why the suspect is most likely the criminal they’re looking for based on his character.

A forensic psychologist is often hired by the defense when it pleads an insanity case. The psychologist meets with the suspect and evaluates his mental health. If the evaluation proves that the suspect was indeed mentally unstable, it is the psychologist’s job to relay it to the court as an expert on the subject.

If the prosecution has a strong witness, a forensic psychologist is often called by the defense to evaluate the character of the witness. The psychologist determines whether or not the witness is credible and of sound character.

Working With Incarcerated Inmates

As a forensic psychologist, you may find lots of career opportunities in jails, penitentiaries, and rehabilitation centers. As a forensic psychologist, your main task is ensuring the psychological health of inmates. They might have broken the law, but the same law states that living conditions for criminals should never be inhuman.

Forensic psychologists are also in-charge of rehabilitation options for inmates. Forensic psychologists are often invited as panel members for parole hearings. They also determine which inmates are likely candidates for rehabilitation programs. They offer anger management programs, treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, and general counseling services.

They also conduct counseling and character assessment for prison employees, like general staff, guards and admin staff.

Forensic Psychologists and Academic Institutions

Last but definitely not the least, is the academe. After all, where would forensic psychology be if James McKeen Cattell did not conduct his study on the psychology of testimony? Aside from training new psychologists, forensic psychologists in the academe conduct studies to greatly improve their work methods in the job categories mentioned above.

Forensic psychology is a constantly evolving field and psychologists have to keep up with it. New methods of criminal investigation are being discovered by forensic psychologists in the research field that help improve criminal profiling, witness testimony, and criminal rehabilitation among others.

Learn about the education requirements to be a forensic psychologist.