Forensic Psychology and Psychologists: What is it and What do they do?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Forensic psychology and psychiatry is growing rapidly both within Australia and worldwide. It can be defined as a sub discipline of general psychological or psychiatry practice that focuses on both civil and criminal legal matters. Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists can be found in both the public and private sector assisting with a multitude of situations. Most commonly these situations include; child custody, mental state examinations, violence risk assessment and treatment of offenders.

Forensic psychology and psychiatry is becoming so common within modern legal systems that forensic psychologists as well as forensic psychiatrists now are governed by their own organisations, training guidelines and research journals. These specifically address and emphasise the skills associated with being a successful forensic psychologist or psychiatrist.

 

The following skills are of particular importance to a successful career in forensic psychology or forensic psychiatry:

 

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Thorough legal knowledge (particularly mental health laws and courtroom procedures)
  • Superior writing skills and knowledge (particularly relating to legal documentation such as case reports and mental state examination reports)
  • Strong oral skills
  • The ability to remain calm and focused in stressful situations

 

Whilst the need for forensic psychologists and psychiatrists is on the rise, becoming accredited in this field is not without its hurdles. The increasing use of forensic assessment has invited scrutiny of psychological evidence in legal matters. Therefore, there has been an increase in the training and educational programs offered to individuals who want to pursue this career path. A prime example is the development of a specific post graduate degree for those looking to specialise in this area of forensic psychology at Swinburne University in Victoria, an Australian first. In addition to these qualifications, it is also common for graduates in psychology or psychiatry to pursue a PhD in the specific area of forensic psychology or psychiatry prior to travelling down this specialised career path.

The psychologists at Prahran Psychology have a diverse range of experience in the area of forensic psychology and have worked extensively in applying psychological skills in the in the legal area. In particular, the volume of court assessments we conduct has grown significantly.

 

Madeline Foster

Deakin University Student

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