What is Forensic Psychiatry

Forensic psychology is a division of psychology that applies to the courts and to law enforcement. The bulk of forensic psychologists work for the civil, criminal, and family courts as either therapist/counselors, evaluators or assessors of psychological abilities, disorders and capacities.

As such, forensic psychology is the occupational interface between psychology and the law. Activities are not limited to evaluation and assessments, but extend into providing clinical services of counseling, therapy and support. Forensic psychologists may work for the court systems or serve in private practice to support the individuals in their cases and claims.

In the family courts, forensic psychologists determine whether child custodial or care giving appellants are fit for their roles. They asses the risks and benefits of situations where grandparents are seeking court ordered visitation rights; where couples seek or are ordered to mediation of disputes over child custody; and in other child custody issues.

In cases of adoptions, termination of parental rights, and family reunification plans, the forensic psychologist must make the critical evaluations, observations and determinations, then prepare the reports that the courts or the participants will use in arriving at final decisions or in presenting their cases.

Family court forensic psychologists also provide counseling for parents and couples, and counsel on related matters of supervised visitation, divorce resolution and parental communication skills and training.

In the civil courts, forensic psychologists evaluate individuals for disorders that are classified under the DSM-IV, and also provide therapy and counseling for PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other disorders. Their work relates to worker’s compensation, personal injury, cases where competency must be assessed, and they also conduct psychological autopsies.

In criminal courts, forensic psychologists work with juveniles in assessment, sentencing, waivers, witness credibility, and sex offense cases. Adult and juvenile assessments include competency, diminished capacity, sex offense, pre-sentencing and other evaluations. Forensic psychologists at criminal courts also counsel for anger management, skills training, violations of restraining orders, victims and others in pre-trial and probation matters.

Criminal profiling is an aspect of forensic psychology that is highly experimental, ever adapting and controversial. The best efforts of highly educated and skilled psychologists and psychiatrists serve to provide hypotheses about the nature and activities of individuals who are involved in high profile, serious, and often rare criminal patterns and activities, such as serial killing, child predation and murder and organized crime.

Finally, a forensic psychologist could include those psychohistorians who, through detailed interviews, counseling and therapy, conduct psycho historical studies in order to understand the psychological and emotional factors that were involved in major and traumatic historic events.