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Forensic Psychologist


Description

It is common for accused criminals to put forth a plea of temporary insanity when accused of a heinous crime. But who decides the mental state of the accused perpetrator? It is the job of forensic psychologists to help lawyers determine whether or not the perpetrator was of sane mind when committing the act. Forsensic psychologists work with offenders or those on trial in order to gain an understanding, assess and hopefully provide treatment to help them make changes to their lives and stop offending. Applying psychological knowledge, theory and skills to the understanding and functioning of the legal and criminal justice system, they provide expert opinion to the courts in such matters as criminal behavior, child abuse and family court cases.

They use various techniques including interviews, examinations and IQ tests, studying the psychological evidence and a person's medical and personal history. Based on expert evaluation, the forensic psychologist will offer his or her opinion on the mental state and behavior of the accused. They create "criminal profiles" of suspects based on crime scene forensic evidence and their interviews. This can be especially helpful when they are testifying in court or helping prosecutors with their interrogation.

Forensic psychologists may specialize in a certain type of crime or work more generally on cases involving murders, rape, child abuse, psychopathic disorders, serial killers or domestic violence. Also, the type of crimes committed will determine the amount of court time, office time and prison time a forensic psychologist partakes in on a daily basis. When they have made a diagnosis, they will often write a report on their findings and give it to the prosecutor or defender.

The job may involve an aspect of danger and a definite amount of stress. For example, if a forensic psychologist is working with a stalker, they may come after them, if they are acquitted in a trial. This is not a comforting or safe thought. There is also the emotional stress involved in working with people who are mentally ill or have suffered severe trauma. Many criminals lie about their innocence and distort the information, therefore, psychologists must be able to see through this and detect signs of lying. Nevertheless, for any psychologist, dealing with a psychopathic mind or an interesting case can be most fascinating and rewarding.

Forensic psychologists are some of the most creative and innovative thinkers in the world. They work to uncover the reality of the human mind (especially the criminal mind), human behavior, the depth of human thought or mental processes, and the possibility of a human soul. With their expert insight into the minds of criminals, we get that little bit closer to understanding just what it is that makes us so perfectly human, or in this case deviant human.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
What does it take to be a forensic psychologist. First, they must be willing to work in unpleasant and highly emotional situations, such as interviewing a hostile person or testifying in a courtroom. Forensic psychologists should be honest, responsible and able to keep information private. They should also be thorough, methodical, accurate and careful in their research and results. Often a person's freedom and life depends on their test results, therefore they are obliged to be as accurate as possible and to continually update their knowledge in the fields of psychology and forensics.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Assess the lifestyle, emotional and behavioral problems of offenders on a one-to-one or group basis and work towards rehabilitation
  • Analyze patients and diagnose a mental block or illness
  • Conduct research on live subjects, including using tests and interviews to make conclusions
  • Design and provide treatment programs for individuals and groups
  • Provide advice to parts of the criminal justice system such as judges and probation officers
  • Prepare parole reports and write articles on research about prisoners
  • Testify in courtrooms about the mental state of the accused killer
  • Forensic psychologists work in offices or travel to prisons, mental institutions, community probation offices and hospitals to interview those on trial for homicide crimes. They also travel to courtrooms to testify in hearings. Some work standard 40-hour weeks, whereas other psychologists put in longer hours when they are working on large cases or attending court. Those who are self-employed and run their own practices have the freedom and flexibility to set their own hours.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Forensic psychologists work for government departments, law firms, in prisons, and at hospitals. Some are also self-employed and own their own private clinics.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for forensic psychologists? Since crime is sadly an aspect of our society, forensic psychologists will always be needed to help investigate crimes and psychoanalyze potential criminals. Without their scientific testimony and skill, many court cases have no legitimate ground to stand on. Forensic psychologists could become forensic scientists with more training or they can advance to supervisory positions and lead forensics teams.
 

  Educational Paths  
Forensic psychologists must have at least a master's degree in psychology. This means going to school for four years to complete an undergraduate degree, and then returning for two to three more years of intense specialized study in forensic psychology. Many forensic psychologists also choose to complete a doctoral degree afterwards, in order to conduct more intensified and concrete research. In order to be licensed as a forensic psychologist, they have to pass a professional test and do supervised clinical work after they complete their university studies. It is necessary to be licensed in order to provide testing and therapy to patients and those on trial.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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