Introduction to Forensic Psychology

Psychology and the Law

The science of psychology is the study of behavior and its related thought processes. Consequently, the study of psychology encompasses every aspect of human existence from predicting teen fashion fads to apprehending serial killers. Once a student has decided on a career in psychology, they must look to their other interests to determine what subfield of psychology they wish to pursue. This paper will focus on the combined study of psychology and the law known as forensic psychology, its subspecialty of clinical-forensic psychology, and the facts related to a career in this field.

The clinical-forensic psychologist, like the clinical psychologist, is involved in the evaluation and treatment of people with mental disorders. However, the clinical-forensic psychologist specializes in people involved in the legal system. Clinical-forensic psychologists are often involved in determining a person’s ability to stand trial, treating persons convicted of a crime, or offering testimony as to the defendant’s possible mental state at the time a crime was committed. Clinical-forensic psychologists may also be involved in civil cases of children or adults facing such events as divorce or custody issues (American Psychology-Law Society [AP-LS]. 2004). A clinical-forensic psychologist might be called upon to work as a profiler to examine and evaluate a crime scene, evidence, and witnesses in order to develop a possible profile of the perpetrator. (“Become”) However, this technique is not widely used in law enforcement.

Clinical-forensic psychologists work in jails, prisons, and juvenile detention centers treating persons convicted of crimes or assessing those going to trial. Others may be employed by mental health centers or have private practices. A Ph.D. or Psy.D. in clinical psychology, which requires 4 years of graduate study and 1 year of internship, is recommended. However, a person with an M.S. or M.A. in clinical psychology can be employed in an institution if working under the supervision of a Ph.D. or Psy.D. psychologist. Few programs specialize in the study of clinical-forensic psychology. Therefore, a degree in clinical psychology with forensic studies, or forensic training during internship is necessary. A clinical-forensic psychologist should be state licensed, as well as receive certification by the American Board of Forensic Psychology (AP-LS. 2004). Although salaries may vary according to location and training, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the average pay for psychologists in 2002 was between $38,560 and $66,970. (“Become”)

I am drawn to this field of psychology for a number of reasons. As an assistant teacher for special education students with emotional behavioral disorders (EBD), behavioral and mental disorders are main focuses of my daily work. However, a career in teaching was never my goal. I first attended college in North Carolina in the 1980’s. Then, and now, my passion is criminal law. I would find a career in clinical-forensic psychology highly fulfilling. Unfortunately, my age and the financial resources necessary to pursue such a career leave little possibility for such a dream. So I will continue to study the fields of law and psychology as a curious bystander and incorporate this knowledge into my writing.


Become a Criminal Psychologist: Criminal Psychology Careers, Criminal Psychology