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Forensic Psychology Essay, Research Paper

Forensic psychology is something that I have been interested in for quite some time; for an explanation of what forensic psychology is here is a broad explanation from Dr. Joseph Davis, “Forensics literally translated from Latin means “in the

forum”. A place to argue, to debate and to render an opinion regarding such facts. (Swenson) Our forum today is what we call the courtroom. The Trier of Fact is the Jury (they listen to the arguments in the forum and are given guidance about legal rules and principles as interpreted by the judge).”

Forensics, as a practitioner, is any acceptable scientific application of methods, procedures, techniques, to the resolution of problems at law (can be civil or criminal or other)” (”The Page”). So to put it simply forensic psychology is just the combination of law and psychology.

Forensic Psychology is a relatively new, but fast growing, field of clinical psychology. (”An analysis”) The jobs of clinicians in this field vary greatly, but all areas deal with some interaction of psychology and the law. For this reason, the field is often referred to as Criminal Psychology. Forensic psychologists are most known for working in the courts but they can also work in work in a penal institution, state mental hospitals, law enforcement agencies, or a private practice (The Page”).

Forensic psychologists also provide treatment services. These include counseling for adults and children involved in divorce proceedings and anger management counseling (”Psychology Information Online” 1998).

Forensic psychologists help a lot with family issues. Some examples of the services for the family court cases are: child custody evaluations, visitation risk assessment, evaluations to access termination of parental rights, adoption readiness evaluations (”Forensic Psychological Evaluations”).

Forensic counseling for anger management usually occurs in child abuse, domestic violence or assault cases. When a parent has been found to lose control with a child, the parent will be required to receive anger control counseling as a condition of contact with the child (”Psychology Information Online” 1998).

After a domestic violence incident, the perpetrator will usually be required to enter counseling to acknowledge responsibility for the aggressive acts, and to learn how to maintain control when angry (DeGue, Sarah). Assault often results from uncontrolled impulses, and those charged or convicted can benefit from counseling (”An analysis”).

In the penal system, Forensic psychologists play a small, but important role. They do psychological treatment of inmates who have severe depression or other disorders which may cause them to be a danger to themselves or others (DeGue, Sarah). This helps the inmates a lot but most do not want to cooperate. Also, these psychologists evaluate how dangerous inmates are, in order to warn guards when dealing with them.

What these psychologists do is a similar from of profiling. An important fact that I received from Michael Decaire, a forensic psychologist, is that very few forensic psychologists do work in this area, profiling, because there just is not enough work in it (Decaire, Michael. Nov 12 1998).

Forensic psychologists also work in state mental hospitals. Here they routinely evaluate the mental states of defendants on trial who are claiming to or are suspected of having a mental disorder which would effect their trial. If the defendant is found “IST”, incompetent to stand trial, they are sent back to the hospital for psychological treatment. (”Ultimate”) In the hospital, other forensic psychologists are to provide therapy for the defendant until they are prepared for trial again. In many of the states, there is now a maximum commitment period that is equal to the length of a prison sentence the patient would have received if sane (DeGue, Sarah).

Some forensic psychologists choose to open their own private practice. In general, these practitioners can be hired by either the defense or prosecution to testify in court cases which are questioning the defendant’s competence to stand trial or plea of insanity (DeGue, Sarah).

They are required to evaluate the defendant and testify on their mental state. The ethics of these clinicians is often questioned as they are being paid for their testimony. Some members of the legal profession fear that the evaluations are too subjective and testimony can be influenced too easily. In these situations, trust in the ethics of the field is important, but are there no guarantees.

“The development and use of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Mental Disorders (SCID-D), and other DSM Structured Interviews, helps eliminate leading type questions and fears, and increases reliability and trust in the

psychologists’ testimony” (”Ultimate”).

In the legal field they do variety of cases. Many take on medical malpractice cases because it involves both the fields they know well: medical and law (Swenson, Dave). They also help people are going to be questioned. Also they help attorneys with jury selection.

The works of television and movies like the “Profiler” and “Silence of the Lambs”, have glamorized this field of psychology. Many people have a misconception of what forensic psychologists really do. Forensic psychologist s work is not always fun or even exciting, but in my opinion, is usually very interesting (”Ultimate”). Forensic psychology is a small but growing field, and it will help perfect the court system, legal field, and secret agencies for many years to come.


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