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What is forensic psychology?

posted by Hannah on Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Forensic psychology is the study of criminal psychology in the context of the criminal justice system. For you to gain a better understanding of the overall definition, it is useful to separate out the two different terms.

What is forensic psychology?

This term forensic is derived from the Latin word forensis, which related to an open or public forum. In layman’s terms, forensics is a way to describe the application of scientific theory and practice to be able to establish when and how a crime was committed. Psychology is defined as the scientific analysis of the human mind and how this impacts on behaviour. It is then possible to trace this behaviour to an individual’s character and actions, including deviant incidences. Therefore, by combining both terms, you arrive at the analysis of criminal behaviours against a legal backdrop. Here we explore exactly what is forensic psychology is.

Forensic psychology in popular culture

You may well have first encountered forensic psychology through watching TV shows, such as Silent Witness, CSI and Cracker. Many people assume from watching these programs that forensic psychologists deal only with high-profile and extreme crimes. Whereas the definition of this subject area is much broader and involving. Forensic psychologists on TV are rarely shown investigating more mundane crimes or putting in time in front of their books carrying out in-depth research.

What does forensic psychology involve?

As explained above, forensic psychology involves many elements. These include applying clinical theory, research and practice to legal contexts. As-well as including exploring assessment and treatment options for people who interact with the legal system. Although this field of psychology relates to criminality and the law, the emphasis is on the clinical skills of the practitioner.

Forensic psychology also involves being able to assess the risk of re-offending of individuals who have committed crimes. You could also spend time researching and developing appropriate rehabilitation programs for offenders. Forensic psychologists are also called upon to consider eyewitness testimony and to give evidence in a court setting.

A significant part of the role of a forensic psychologist involves contributing to policy and research. In fact, psychologists working in the field of forensics may choose to focus on continued academic research rather than actual practice.

How to become a forensic psychologist

To become a forensic psychologist, you will need to have an aptitude for science and ability to solve problems. If you wish to pursue this as a career will first need to complete a psychology degree accredited by the British Psychological Society. If your degree is in a different subject area, you will need to take a postgraduate conversion course. You will then need to undertake a Masters-level study and supervised practice.

If you become employed as a forensic psychologist, you would likely work for the prison service, although forensic psychologists also work within probation services, the police service and the NHS.

Study options

Oxbridge Home Learning offers Forensic Psychology Level 3 as a distance learning course. This course would be ideal preparation for further study in this subject area. It would also be an excellent way to further your knowledge of criminal behaviour and legal practices.

Alternatively, you may want to view all the online criminology courses we offer.