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Forensic psychology is the subspecialty in professional psychology that studies various aspects of the legal system and law in terms of psychological practice. It has to be said that the relationship between law and psychology has its roots in ancient times. “Forensic” is a modification of the Latin word “forensis” that signifies the place where law courts took place (Gavin, 2019). This specialization appeared because of the need for psychological evidence during the legal process. Even though the field of forensic psychology has a long history, it has been recognized as a professional practice only recently (Gavin, 2019). Nowadays, this term represents any application of psychology to any aspect of the legal process.
Tasks of Forensic Psychology
Tasks with which forensic psychologists deal on a daily basis are central to legal matters and may include jury selection and mental health evaluation. A statistical analysis of crime trends, expert testimony provision in court, hostage negotiation, and offender treatment programs are among activities performed by forensic psychologists. There is a common stereotype that forensic psychologists are criminal profilers working for the police, though this is what criminologists or criminal psychologists usually do (Tully & Bamford, 2019).
Often, forensic psychologists work in prisons, rehabilitation centers, law firms, police departments, and even schools. They may work directly with all parties involved in the legal process (attorneys, defendants, offenders), as well as pupils and families. The most valuable work undertaken by these professionals is the one with victims.
Importance of Forensic Psychology for Society
Despite the fact that it is police officers who investigate crimes, the skills and expertise of forensic psychologists cannot be overestimated. The number of responsibilities carried by profilers as well as the wide scope of their activities makes the discipline highly important both in criminal and civil matters. In the judicial system, forensic psychologists determine the mental functioning of a defendant (Crighton & Towl, 2015).
Also, these specialists may perform a psychological assessment of an accused person and testify on their findings in court. In general, forensic psychology consists of a number of specialties that are tailored to individual needs. Input provided by adult forensic psychologists may give important insights to the justice system regarding the psychological evaluation of an individual. The utilization of psychological approaches may be helpful in evaluating the risk for future offenses, cognitive impairment, or one’s ability to stand trial.
Psychologists working in the field of child and family psychology perform therapy sessions with couples or families in order to evaluate patients. The professionals also work with children so as to determine if they are able to stand trial or help a child recover after being abused (Gavin, 2019). Forensic psychologists working in the field of law enforcement may be involved in hostage negotiation and dealing with traumatic events, including suicide threats.
Apart from that, specialists may conduct psychological research around eyewitness memory to learn some new facts that a person could not remember. Regardless of the area a forensic psychologist works in, this person has to have excellent expertise in psychological practice and the law enforcement field.
Importance of Forensic Psychology for an Individual
Forensic psychology may be important to an individual since it deals with mental processes and behavior, thus allowing for better decision-making and building strong relationships with people. Since the discipline is based on psychological concepts, a person could get a better understanding of how people think and behave. For those who study psychology, the forensic environment could be a place to work in. Specialists in this area are valued nowadays due to the complexity of the work and the necessity of having diverse skills and competencies (Crighton & Towl, 2015).
The work of a forensic psychologist is sensitive, challenging, and confidential, and the training route is rather intensive and time-consuming. However, for a person who has psychological or clinical expertise and would like to work in a forensic environment, this job may turn into a passion.
In fact, understanding the link between criminal behavior and psychology is just as challenging as it is interesting. By learning the conceptual basis within which psychological knowledge may be applied, a person can become a valuable asset to a specialized company or police department (Tully & Bamford, 2019). This is because forensic psychologists may work not only within a legal framework but also as school psychologists, child and family forensic psychologists, and juvenile forensic psychologists. Since forensic psychologists are mental professionals, their skills and competencies may be required at correctional institutions, hospitals, and law enforcement academies. Other professional opportunities may include working as an academic researcher, a consultant to law enforcement, an expert witness, and an evaluator.
Forensic psychology involves the application of psychology to the legal field. Specialists working in this area effectively utilize their knowledge in different branches of the legal system and conduct behavioral research. Generally, forensic psychology relies on the assessment and evaluation of the mental state of an individual, be it a defendant, a witness, or a victim. Activities performed by these professionals play a great role in the field of criminal justice. For a student, studying forensic psychology could be a way to start a promising yet challenging career with a number of professional options.
Crighton, D. A., & Towl, G. J. (Eds.). (2015). Forensic psychology (2nd ed.). Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons.
Gavin, H. (2019). Criminological & forensic psychology (2nd ed.). London, England: SAGE.
Tully, R., & Bamford, J. (Eds.). (2019). Case studies in forensic psychology: Clinical assessment and treatment. Abingdon, England: Routledge.