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Forensic Psychology is the application of psychology to the criminal justice system. Many people confuse Forensic Psychology with forensic science. Although the two are closely related, there are many differences. The primary difference is that forensic psychologists delve into the vast psychological perspectives and apply them to criminal justice system. On the other hand, forensic psychologists frequently deal with legal issues, such as public policies, new laws, competency, and also whether a defendant was insane at the time a crime occurred. All of these issues weave together psychology and law topics and are essential to the discipline of Forensic Psychology. Forensic Psychology knowledge is used in various forms, such as in treating mentally ill offenders, consulting with attorneys (e.g., on picking a jury), analyzing a criminal's mind and intent, and practicing within the civil arena.
Areas of forensic psychology
• Clinical- Forensic Psychology- This subfield is very similar to clinical psychology. Clients here are not only suffering from some type of mental problem, but their issues are of importance to legal decision making as well.
• Developmental Psychology- This area has to do with juveniles, the elderly, and the law. The focus is on policy making rather than treatment of those with mental problems.
• Social Psychology- Much of the interest in this field, as applied to forensic psych, is concerned with how jurors interact and arrive at a group decision.
• Cognitive Psychology- This field is closely associated with the social psych subfield, but it looks more into how people make decisions in legal cases.
• Criminal Investigative Psychology- This area deals with police psychology, criminal profiling and psychological autopsies. Experts may chose to conduct research and/or work closely in analyzing the minds of criminal suspects.
Forensic Psychology Practice
The forensic psychologist views the client or defendant from a different point of view than does a traditional clinical psychologist. Seeing the situation from the client's point of view or "empathizing" is not the forensic psychologist's task. Traditional psychological tests and interview procedure are not sufficient when applied to the forensic situation. In forensic evaluations, it is important to assess the consistency of factual information across multiple sources. Forensic evaluators must be able to provide the source on which any information is based.
Forensic psychologists perform a wide range of tasks within the criminal justice system.
Malingering: An overriding issue in any type of forensic assessment is the issue of malingering and deception. An evaluee may intentionally exaggerate or feign mental disorder symptoms. The forensic psychologist must always keep this possibility in mind.
Competency evaluations: If there is a question of the accused's competency to stand trial, a forensic psychologist is appointed by the court to examine and assess the individual. The individual may be in custody or may have been released on bail. Based on the forensic assessment, a recommendation is made to the court whether or not the defendant is competent to proceed to trial. If the defendant is considered incompetent to proceed, the report or testimony will include recommendations for the interim period during which an attempt at restoring the individual's competency to understand the court and legal proceedings, as well as participate appropriately in their defense will be made.
Sanity evaluations: The forensic psychologist may also be appointed by the court to evaluate the defendant's state of mind at the time of the offense. These are defendants who the judge, prosecutor or public defender believe, through personal interaction with the defendant or through reading the police report, may have been significantly impaired at the time of the offense.
Sentence mitigation: Even in situations where the defendant's mental disorder does not meet the criteria for a not guilty by reason of insanity defense, the defendant's state of mind at the time, as well as relevant past history of mental disorder and psychological abuse can be used to attempt a mitigation of sentence. The forensic psychologist's evaluation and report is an important element in presenting evidence for sentence mitigation.
Ethical implications: A forensic psychologist generally practices within the confines of the courtroom, incarceration facilities, and other legal setting. It is important to remember that the forensic psychologist is equally likely to be testifying for the prosecution as for the defense attorney. A forensic psychologist does not take a side, as do the psychologists described below. The ethical standards for a forensic psychologist differ from those of a clinical psychologist or other practicing psychologist because the forensic psychologist is not an advocate for the client and nothing the client says is guaranteed to be kept confidential. This makes evaluation of the client difficult, as the forensic psychologist needs and wants to obtain all information while it is often not in the client's best interest to provide it.
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1. 15th Annual Meeting and Conference of the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services, 16 - 18 June 2015, University of Manchester, England
2. 15th International Conference of Investigative Psychology, April 8th –10th 2014, London
3. European Association of Psychology and Law(EAPL), 24th-27th of June, 2014, Russia
4. 31st Annual Symposium In Forensic Psychology, March 26-29, 2015, The Westgate Hotel- San Diego
5. AP-LS Annual Meeting, March 19-21, 2015, San Diego
6. Society for Police & Criminal Psychology, September 17-20, 2014 Flamingo Hotel, Nevada, Las Vegas
7. ANZAPPL Annual Congress, 19- 22 November, 2014, Menzies Hotel, Sydney
8. World Congress Of Criminology 2014, August 10 – 14, 2014, Monterrey, Mexico
9. American Society Of Criminology, November 18 - 21, 2015, Washington, USA
10. American Society Of Criminology, November 16 - 19, 2016, New Orleans, USA
1. International Association Of Forensic Mental Health Services
2. European Association of Psychology and Law
3. Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
4. American Society Of Criminology
5. American Academy of Forensic Psychology
6. The British psychological Society
7. American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP)
8. American Board of Forensic Psychology
9. American Psychological Association
10. International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology (IACFP)
11. Canadian Society of Forensic Science
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This page was last updated on November 25, 2020