Specialialties Within the Field of Forensic Psychology

Specialties within forensic psychologySpecialties

The scope of a forensic psychologist’s responsibilities is broad. They assist in criminal investigations, take part in court proceedings and conduct rehabilitative treatments to inmates. However, it’s not rare to see a forensic psychologist concentrate on one definitive area of the study. In the same way that the medical field has specializations, forensic psychology has those too.

The only difference is that each specialization is very specific that the scope of responsibility under each area is usually small. Forensic psychologists can have more than one specialization, as long as they perform their duties well.

Here we discuss the various specializations of forensic psychology, including the scope of responsibilities under each specialization and the skills necessary to perform the job well.

Personal Injury and Civil Law

Forensic psychologists are invited to act as expert witnesses, especially when emotional trauma and insanity are at play. For example, an accident at the workplace turns into a personal injury suit. The injured worker, aside from suing for damages for negligence, is also suing his employers for emotional trauma.

It is the forensic psychologist’s job to confirm that the worker’s allegations of emotional trauma are accurate. The forensic psychologist bases his findings on interviews with the plaintiff, a review of the plaintiff’s medical history and interviews with the plaintiff’s friends and family. They also administer several tests to confirm the diagnosis. If proven, the worker can now ask for compensation for emotional trauma or distress. Additionally, a forensic psychologist can also administer treatment if trauma or distress is present.

Aside from personal injury cases, forensic psychologists also assist in harassment cases, malpractice, product liability and involuntary treatment.

Family Law

Proceedings in family court always run high on emotions, especially when children are involved. Forensic psychologists are called in to testify when emotional trauma and mental illness are involved. This is often the case when divorce is caused by domestic violence, infidelity, mental illness or substance abuse. A forensic psychologist’s job is to confirm whether or not mental or emotional abuse existed in the marriage.

Proof of emotional or mental abuse is important for family law proceedings because it gives the opposing party leverage as a victim of said abuse. This also plays an important part in child custody battles. If you are proven to have inflicted mental abuse on your spouse, your chances of getting child custody is slim.

With child custody cases, a forensic psychologist interviews the children to determine their mental state.  Divorce can traumatize children, and it is the duty of a forensic psychology to prevent that. They also determine the best arrangement for child custody, with the child’s well-being in mind.


This is the specialization of forensic psychology that you often see in mainstream media. The scope of responsibilities in this specialization is broad and involves the entire process of criminal investigation, to criminal court proceedings.

Clinical applications of forensic psychology in criminology involve the diagnosis, treatment and assessment of law enforcement, suspects, eyewitness, victims and other related persons. It is a forensic psychologist’s job to diagnose a criminal’s deviant behavior. Analysis of a criminal’s behavior can give telltale signs of who they are and can help law enforcement catch perpetrators.

Forensic psychologists also ensure that eyewitnesses are of sound mind and can give testimony that is free from manipulation and bias. They also evaluate law enforcement officers to ensure their mental health, especially after traumatic events. Forensic psychologists are also called in as expert witnesses when the defense makes a plea of insanity, or if a witness’ character is in question.

As mentioned previously, the scope of criminology is broad. Forensic can choose to stick to even more specific fields, like Juvenile delinquency, victim’s rights, or white collar crime. They can even choose which crimes to specialize in.

Prison Psychology

A forensic psychology is expected to know the inner workings of criminal behavior. This knowledge is important when it comes to rehabilitating criminals. Forensic psychologists conduct evaluations to determine which criminals are dangerous, and which can be reintroduced to society via rehabilitation.

Each convicted criminal undergoes an evaluation to classify them, from minimum security to maximum security. They also determine which criminals are at risk for self-injury. They regularly conduct evaluations on prisoners as well as prison staff to check on their mental health. They often refer prisons to a mental facility if their condition worsens while incarcerated.

The biggest role that forensic psychologists play in prisons is rehabilitation. They interview prisoners to find out their core problems and determine the best course of action. They may recommend anything from anger management sessions, substance abuse treatments, and even prisoner education.


Some forensic psychologists delve into the research side of things, instead of applied psychology.  This is where forensic psychologists started, by observing law-related processes and conducting experiments on it. Most forensic psychologists in the academe conduct research on criminal profiling, jury selection techniques, interrogation methods, eyewitness account credibility, crime trends and effective rehabilitation methods for offenders.

Forensic psychologists can either work both in the field and in the academe, while others focus mainly on research and have no practical experience. They often publish journals, which are then adopted by the department affected by said research. Forensic psychologists who specialize in research can also take on a teaching role, and train future forensic psychologists.

Unlike other professions, there are no clean cut rules in forensic psychologists that say you have to stick to one specialization. These specializations often overlap with one another, or mesh together perfectly in other situations. A forensic psychologist can take up all specializations if they want to, or choose a combination of specializations. They can also specialize in a certain area for a certain period of time, and then change fields if they want to.

Check out a day in the life of a forensic psychologist