What is Forensic Psychology?

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  • Written By: Victoria Blackburn
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Forensic psychology is a branch of applied psychology that deals with the legal process and justice system. Any psychological service provided for the legal community can be considered to be forensic psychology. A forensic psychologist may be required to play a clinical role or a forensic role, or both. Most forensic psychologists focus on applying psychological research to the principles of the justice system.

Forensic psychology deals with the psychological aspects of a crime or civil action. It is concerned with collecting, examining, and presenting evidence to help facilitate a legal decision. Within the legal system, forensic psychology provides a means for being able to enforce the law while taking human behavior into consideration. A forensic psychologist may be called upon to differentiate between criminal behavior and human behavior that may be caused by a psychological imbalance.

It is imperative that forensic psychologists must be good clinical psychologists. Clinical psychologists assess and treat patients with mental disorders. Forensic psychologists must interact with individuals presenting mental health disorders within the legal context. Both civil and criminal cases can be considered by a forensic psychologist.

Within the justice system, there are many areas where forensic psychology is utilized and forensic psychologists are employed. Correctional services, including prisons and jails; psychiatric hospitals; law enforcement agencies; community mental health centers; and juvenile detention centers are just some of the areas where forensic psychology is used. Within these settings, there are numerous different roles that are performed by the forensic psychologist.


Many people confuse forensic psychology with forensic science. While they are similar fields, there are a few very specific differences between the two. The key difference is the fact that forensic psychology is used to analyze all the psychological perspectives, rather than physical evidence. A forensic psychologist also deals with many legal issues, which are essential elements to the understanding of the criminal behavior.

The specialized knowledge of a forensic psychologist can be called upon for a variety of reasons, including treating offenders who are mentally ill, consulting on jury selection, and analyzing a criminal’s behavior, mind, and motive. Forensic psychologists have an expert knowledge of both the law and clinical psychology methods. A forensic psychologist is expected to keep up-to-date not only on psychological treatments, but also on legal issues such as new and updated laws and policies.


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Post 5

Do you need to have any social skills to be a forensics psychologist?

Post 4

Does forensic psychology involve a lot of sciences and math?

Post 3

Usually courses in forensic psychology involve courses regarding addiction, police stress, domestic violence, stalking, and serial killers. Some forensic psychologists focus on the neuropsychology which studies how the brain makeup is different for a criminal than an average person.

Post 2

Forensic psychology jobs could be found in police departments, the F. B. I, and psychiatric hospitals and prisons. In order to practice forensic psychology, you must have a PhD; it does not necessarily have to be a forensic psychology PhD.

The best opportunities lie in the larger metropolitan cities that usually have higher incidents of crime.

Post 1

Forensic psychology programs are growing in popularity. The Petersons site offers a variety of colleges that offer forensic psychology degrees.

The important thing to remember is that the program needs to be accredited. If there are no forensic psychology programs, you can still pursue forensic psychology jobs if you have a clinical psychology PhD.

Often at the doctorate level you can do your research on criminal behavior and enter the field that way. Many forensic psychologists are called to testify in criminal trials or to offer criminal profiling assistance in order to help law enforcement in solving an impending crime. When they are called to testify in criminal trials they are called as expert witnesses and are expected to offer their testimony regarding the mental fitness of a defendant and sometimes they are used to help the judge in recommending a sentence.

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