Published on March 13, 2014
Forensic Psychology as a career Rachel Atkinson
What do forensic psychologists do? • Forensic psychology is concerned with the psychological aspects of legal processes in courts. The term is also often used to refer to investigative and criminological psychology: applying psychological theory to criminal investigation, understanding psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour and the treatment of criminals.
Key tasks undertaken by forensic psychologists include: • piloting and implementing treatment programmes • modifying offender behaviour • responding to the changing needs of staff and prisoners • reducing stress for staff and prisoners • providing hard research evidence to support practice • undertaking statistical analysis for prisoner profiling • giving evidence in court • advising parole boards and mental health tribunals • crime analysis
Where do they work? • The largest single employer of forensic psychologists in the UK is HM Prison Service (which includes the Home Office Research and Development Unit as well as prisons). • Forensic psychologists can also be employed in: – the health service (including rehabilitation units and secure hospitals) – the social service (including the police service, young offenders units, and the probation service) – university departments – private consultancy.
Qualifying as a forensic psychologist • To become a Chartered Member of the Society through the forensic psychology training route, you will need the following qualifications: • Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). This is achieved by completing a Society accredited degree or conversion course • Society accredited Masters in Forensic Psychology • Stage 2 of the Society’s Qualification in Forensic Psychology (two years supervised practice) • Some universities offer a doctorate programme in Forensic Psychology. This qualification makes you eligible to become a Chartered Member of the Society. • In order to use the title Forensic Psychologist, you will need to be registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC).
My path…. • Joint (hons) in Psychology and English literature • An MSc in Occupational Psychology • Conversion to Forensic Psychology via the BPS Certificate. • Assistant psychologist role in HMPS HQ researching the criminogenic needs of female offenders. • Trainee psychologist role on a treatment programme for high risk violent offenders. Gained chartership and promoted to National Lead for the violence programme. • Moved to a project to design a treatment programme for very violent high risk psychopathic men. Now National Clinical Lead for this programme.
Current role • Co-author of the programme for high risk violent and psychopathic offenders. Oversee national and local implementation, deliver/oversee national staff training and supervision, provide clinical support and auditing, manage the budget and advise government on effective working with this population. • Work clinically with violent offenders and conduct and supervise risk assessments. • Develop training workshops for staff in health and prison service on working with personality disordered offenders. • Research and evaluate treatment effectiveness and present findings at national and international conferences. • Publish journal articles and book chapters. • Supervise trainee forensic psychologists.
Tips/hints? • Be sure!
Is it for me? Yes, if…. • You are nonjudgmental and believe in capacity for change • You can separate the person from their behavior • You are robust but able to learn from feedback and acknowledge your own limitations • You want to protect the public as well as improve the lives of offenders • You are interested in legal processes and can cope with working in secure (often bleak!) environments • You work well in a team as well as independently. • You like a challenge! Literally a captive audience…..
How to get into it… • Get work experience - ideally working with people with challenging personal and social histories • Often universities will have links with HMPS or NHS • Be prepared to start as an assistant (even if you have a Masters!) • Find good supervisor who has contacts.
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