A forensic psychologist is a qualified individual that addresses the individuals who committed a crime and is mostly interested in the mental state of the latter. One of the key requirements of this profession is to observe and scrutinize the wrongdoers’ minds for deviant behavior and different wrongful intentions. Another requirement is the completion of a doctoral program (specifically in forensic psychology). Any given forensic psychologist that is hired by the organization has to evaluate the mindset of criminals. Forensic psychologists have to ready to work independently to show up in court and validate the existing evidence.
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Some additional requirements may include consulting court officials, interviewing suspects, organizing written psychological reports, and reaching verdicts regarding the ability of any given criminal to stand trial. The forensic psychologist that expects to become a part of the organization has to be knowledgeable in the areas of criminal behavior and general mental health. Therefore, it may be necessary to follow the trends in the existing legislation and find out about the latest updates first. As has been previously mentioned, one of the most important points that have to be followed by the future forensic psychologist is a doctoral degree in the area.
The organization approves two types of doctoral degrees – Ph.D. and Psy.D. The latter is more career-based while the first is concentrated on research. Another thing that is expected from the future member of the organization is the presence of a license of a clinical psychologist. It is also important (but not required) that the candidates for the position have at least one year of professional experience.
The organization is looking for specialists that have previously completed an internship in the area that was approved and documented by the state officials. The members of the organization may also compose an examination consisting of several oral questions and an essay on a certain topic. Only the candidates with the certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology will be approved. The license is an obligatory requirement that can be complemented by several years of experience in the area.
The first stakeholder that has to be taken into consideration within the framework of the current paper is the accuser. This is a person (or an organization) that introduced the inquiry (Pollock, 2016). This type of stakeholders is usually surrounded by bureaucracy and numerous legal procedures. This is especially important for the cases that are reviewed before a court hearing. Lawyers can also become stakeholders, but knowledgeable investigators make the best efforts in order not to let that happen. On a bigger scale, the accuser and the accused are the primary stakeholders while the attorney has to be only a representative of a stakeholder (Hayes, 2015).
The existence of secondary stakeholders and their impact on the case depending on the scope and degree of the case. One of the key features that are characteristic of stakeholders is their opportunity to either lose or gain something as a result of the investigation. Therefore, several additional stakeholders related to forensic psychology can be identified here. First, there are decision-making individuals and organizations who have the right to call off an investigation or reselect the dedicated personnel. Second, the existence of third-party arbitrators may have a positive impact on the outcome of the case and a variety of legal procedures (Chapman & Davis, 1978).
These stakeholders are also known as mediators. The next category of stakeholders is named customers. These organizations or individuals are closely connected to the accuser/ accused and have a serious influence on the ultimate decision made in court. The last type of stakeholders is named process owners. These stakeholders contribute to the operations that are performed to reach a verdict regarding the case that is being reviewed.
Two Ethical Theories
One of the strengths of virtue ethics is that it takes into consideration any given person’s virtues. It means that if that person has virtues, they will be able to behave morally and treat others appropriately (meaning that they will showcase compassion and respect) (Roh, 2003). Compared to Kant’s theory of ethics, people are not forced to perceive good deeds as their duty and can do good things simply because they are essential to them. Another strength of this moral theory is that it molds better people. When compassion and honesty are practiced in everyday life, it leads to people becoming greater individuals (Braswell, 2014).
This means that these people can think about other people and help them without being forced to do so. The third strength of virtue ethics consists in the fact that its holistic nature allows us to live harmoniously. The main thing about virtue ethics is that it does not add any levels to the complexity of the existing environment and allows the person to distinguish between what is good and bad. Compared to other ethical theories, it is not so confusing and takes into account the nature of virtues and their integrity.
The first weakness that is characteristic of virtue ethics is the nature of virtues. This shortcoming transpires when the perspectives and opinions of different people clash against each other (here, we should implicitly consider these perspectives to be diametrically opposite). Also, if we consider the diversity of societies and cultures, it will be hard to draw the line between what is moral and what is not because of numerous differences (Belshaw & Johnstone, 2015). The other weakness of virtue ethics is self-centeredness. The problem here is that this theory does not pay close attention to the impact of our deeds on other individuals. Instead, virtue ethics allegedly suppose that a person’s character and personal interests should be dealt with in the first place.
The first strength that is associated with this ethical theory is that it is rather easy-to-understand. According to the adepts of this theory, everything has a consequence. On a bigger scale, utilitarianism presupposes that there are rewards when the outcome is good, and there are upshots when the consequence is bad. According to this theory, any given person will strive to act morally if they share the ideals inherent in utilitarianism.
For instance, no one would take drugs or drive under the influence because it would mean adverse consequences (Banks, 2016). Expanding on the principle of benefits, we can address the second strength of utilitarianism. By adhering to the core ideas of this ethical theory, we can eliminate all the immoral things and skip to the benefits of moral behavior and happiness (which can be seen as the consequence of moral behavior).
The last strength of utilitarianism is that this theory takes into consideration all the elements of the ethics equation. Despite its virtual simplicity, it considers a whole lot of moral and immoral “ingredients” that all can be perceived as either good or bad (Souryal, 2014). The key point here is to measure the outcomes using the level of contentment or discontent without the need to stick to anything else.
One of the weaknesses of utilitarianism is that numerous undesirable problems can be triggered by utilitarian ethics. For instance, even if the death of one can be beneficial to thousands of others (if the word “beneficial” can be applied here), the idea of utilitarianism will overcome common sense. The next weakness that is characteristic of this ethical theory is its subjectivity (Albanese, 2015). It is rather hard to distinguish where one should draw the line when it comes to a complex decision (meaning that not all bad decisions are categorically bad).
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The last weakness that can be pointed out is the difficult and time-consuming nature of utilitarianism. It can become easier only in the case if all the rewards and consequences are acknowledged before the process of decision-making. According to this ethical theory, one always has to stop and ponder over the righteousness of their actions.
Practical Work Scenarios
One of the scenarios that can be met in the practical work of a forensic psychologist is receiving a gift from one of the stakeholders or their family. This particular situation can be considered a problem because there is a difference in how this event can be handled within the framework of different ethical theories. Mostly, accepting a gift resembles the theory of utilitarianism (meaning a reward for something good), but it may be wrong to accept a gift in the case if it is synonymous with bribery.
Another scenario that can be regarded as typical for the practice of forensic psychologists is the assessment of the mental state of a friend, acquaintance, or family member. This situation bears numerous implications because virtue ethics may be inapplicable here while the subjectivity inherent in utilitarianism may lead to adverse consequences. The last scenario is related to an uninformed decision that can be made due to the lack of evidence. For a forensic psychologist, this is one of the most complicated events where the only option is to adhere to their code of ethics.
Code of Ethics
To come up with a professional ethical code, it was important to examine the meta-code that can be the basis of the latter. The most superior moral principles should be applied to validate the philosophical reasoning of tolerable ethical principles. Numerous researchers tried to provide a relevant explanation for the ethical code of conduct using associating it with the essential moral values. Five core principles can be considered to be the foundation for the code of ethics of forensic psychologists.
The first principle is beneficence. This means that psychologists have to be responsible and do only good regardless of what it takes. Second, there is non-maleficence. Forensic psychologists are expected to do no harm and adhere to this point at all times. The third principle that is at the forefront of the current Code of Ethics is autonomy. This means that psychologists have to have respect for others and understand that there is a necessity to provide freedom of action and thought to other individuals. The next ethical principle is justice. It presupposes that the interactions between individuals are formed exclusively on fairness.
The last principle that has to be included in the Code of Ethics is fidelity. Any given forensic psychologist has to be trustworthy and realistic about their promises. This Code of Ethics was composed based on the findings in the field of forensic psychology. It can also be stated that it closely relates to the Special Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists. On a bigger scale, the meta-code of the current Code of Ethics presupposes that forensic psychologists have to be competent and responsible to implement the ethical concepts described above in real-life practice. Regardless, the integration of such moral values can be closely associated with several risks and difficulties that may adversely impact the practice.
The key problem with the Code of Ethics consists in the fact that the concept of “ethics” differs from one person to another and there are quite a few disputes that minimize the chances of reaching a consensus. This supposition is supported by the findings regarding the variation in opinions among several psychologists that were offered to resolve the same ethical issues.
To be considered a skillful forensic psychologist, the individual will have to showcase numerous skills which include (but are not limited to):
- Excellent listening and communicative skills;
- The skill of building a positive relationship with the community of any given stakeholder (especially offender’s community);
- The ability to approach the practice systematically;
- The ability to be a great leader and a team player at the same time;
- The skill of being committed and motivated at all times and under any circumstances;
- The presence of decision-making skills and the ability to solve different problems that may transpire on the fly;
- The ability to analyze the available information statistically and showcase research and planning skills when necessary;
- A great deal of self-awareness and proficient knowledge in security;
- An approach to the practice that presupposes a non-discriminatory attitude to all of the stakeholders.
- The ability to deal with personal risks and be resilient.
Positive Impact of the Code of Ethics
The Code of Ethics that was outlined within the framework of the current research can positively impact the practice of any forensic psychologist. Several reasons support this hypothesis. First of all, this code complies with the majority of ethical theories that currently exist. This allows psychologists to align their practice and decision-making procedures with the Code of Ethics without worrying about being biased.
Second, there is a possibility to showcase a flexible approach to dealing with real-life cases that require an ethical attitude toward the situation. The Code of Ethics was elaborated to facilitate the working process and ensure that all the stakeholders are respected and treated equally. The implementation of the Code of Ethics in practice can help forensic psychologists to systematize their practice and address the issue of unfair verdicts that are rather prevalent in courts.
Albanese, J. (2015). Professional ethics in criminal justice. London, UK: Pearson Education.
Banks, C. (2016). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Belshaw, S., & Johnstone, P. (2015). Ethics in the criminal justice system. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
Braswell, M. (2014). Justice, crime, and ethics. Cincinnati, OH: LexisNexis.
Chapman, M. L., & Davis, F. V. (1978). Skills for ethical action: A process to judgment and action. Educational Leadership, 35(6), 457-461.
Hayes, S. (2015). Criminal justice ethics: Cultivating the moral imagination. New York, NY: Routledge.
Pollock, J. (2016). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice. New York, NY: Cengage.
Roh, Y. R. (2003). An extended conception of rationality and moral actions. Journal of Value Inquiry, 37(1), 35-49. Web.
Souryal, S. (2014). Ethics in criminal justice. New York, NY: Routledge.