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Forensic Psychology

What Is Forensic Psychology And Why Is It Important?

Forensic psychology is an important field in which psychologists address a court room to present information and psychological analysis of defendants, plaintiffs, and other persons directly involved in court cases. The functions of forensic psychologists are varied, but successful forensic psychologists must provide a number of skills including but not limited to:

  • The ability to relate to a courtroom by using legal language
  • Competency in various fields of psychology
  • Successful analytical skills that can provide information for a court about various persons
  • The ability to explain broad psychology concepts to a court of law

Because of the high number of court cases in which psychology becomes an issue pertinent to the case, forensic psychologists are in relatively high demand in the United States and in many other areas around the world. If you’re looking for a forensic psychologist or if you’re considering forensic psychology as a career path, here are a few important things to know about this particular offering of psychology.

What Forensic Psychologists Are Expected To Provide

Forensic psychologists may be called on by a court or by attorneys for a number of reasons. They may be asked to provide sentencing guidelines or recommendations, for example, in cases in which an insanity defense has been presented or when mental health and emotional issues are a definite point in the case.

More frequently, forensic psychologists are asked to provide an analysis of defendants. Defendants may claim insanity or they may claim that a broad range of emotional or mental issues led to crimes, and their defense may hinge on an analysis from a trained forensic psychologist. Conversely, defendants who are malingering (faking an illness or condition) should be identified by forensic psychologists, and the court must receive an explanation of this deception.

Psychologists called to court for this reason are expected to give a perfectly objective assessment of the defendant’s capabilities and any issues that may be pertinent to the case. It is also expected that forensic psychologists will be able to relate this information to a court by using legal language. This means that forensic psychologists need to have some type of legal background. Highly experienced forensic psychologists are in greater demand for this reason, and many forensic psychologists work in special subsets of the field (e.g. assessment of particular emotional issues, etc).

The Requirements for Forensic Psychologists

As mentioned earlier, forensic psychologists are expected to be highly trained from both a legal and a psychological perspective. Forensic psychologists should have a minimum of a master’s degree in psychology or sociology. Most will have a doctorate, as well as wide experience in treatment, analysis, and diagnosis. Forensic psychologists without experience are rarely hired by courts or attorneys.

Many also have degrees in legal areas or general legal experience. Gaining this legal experience may take time, and many forensic psychologists will work around courts and legal professionals for years to develop their skills to the point at which they’re in demand.

When Is Forensic Psychology Necessary?

Forensic psychology may be necessary in any case in which psychology may be a determining factor for sentencing or establishing the guilt or fault of one or more parties. You should look for a forensic psychologist if you’re involved in a court case that meets these specifications.

When looking at forensic psychologists, be sure to assess the educational background and experience of these individuals. It is also important to work closely with a court or attorney when seeking forensic psychology services.


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