Forensic Psychology: Career Options and Other Information About It
Forensic psychology is an interesting and relatively newer field of applied psychology mainly categorized as a combination of psychology and law. It predominantly focuses on people, evidence, and risks, and takes cognizance of the offensive acts committed by people. It analyzes the factors that offend people causing a deviation in their thinking patterns, emotions, and behaviors which affects their normal functioning and leads them to display criminality. It involves the study of personality assessment, developmental, cognitive, and statistical research along with witnessing practical implications of knowledge and legal procedures for the purpose of improving conditions of those pronounced guilty.
What do forensic psychologists do?
“No one is born criminal but situations make you criminal”, presents an unconventional viewpoint on criminals elaborating on how some offenders may have previously been devoid of the right opportunities to take a different route in life. This lack of opportunity could be a reason that must have kept them from breaking the cycle of re-offending leading to bigger crimes eventually. Forensic psychologists are thus involved in designing, delivering, and evaluating sessions for criminals. The work of a forensic psychologist encompasses being a good researcher and generating evidence apart from engaging and motivating people to carry out constructive activities. They typically meet people having a history of offending behavior, carry on an assessment to understand their psychological needs, and also develop treatment plans for them. They look at the dimension of the development of criminality in individuals. They render services and deal with people having challenging behaviors, specifically offenders, who are a stigmatized group, to effectively change and guide them on the right path. They are the reason for bringing in a positive change in the minds of those convicted for offenses and helping such individuals lead better lives in the future. They address the problems of offenders and victims as well. A forensic psychologist is expected to deliver services in a range of different criminal and civil cases such as domestic violence, child abuse, child custody disputes, and others. The job of a forensic psychologist even extends to offering support to offenders in the community setting and ensuring their positive engagement in mainstream activities.
Difficulties faced by forensic psychologists:
The aspect of relationship building seems to be the most crucial one in the process of interventions with offenders who usually tend to be distrusting of others owing to negative relationships in the past which is a big reason for them to express their hostility by committing the crime. Also, psychologists working in prisons face active resistance from jail inmates as they do not want any sort of assistance from anybody. So, psychologists sometimes have a hard time finding alternative ways of verbal and non-verbal communication. Working with juvenile offenders is again a challenging job but is something through which one gets a hands-on experience exposing the ground realities of today’s lifestyle. Volunteering with Samaritans, working with child and adult health service centers, and healthcare and support workers’ roles can also help you get a glimpse of this job but is something that asks you to be available at all times and in all conditions which may take a toll on your own health.
The following skills/abilities are typically required in a forensic psychologist:
1. Resilience: A person choosing the field of forensic psychology is ought to be resilient with time as he may encounter really severe cases of challenging behaviors in clients. Being resilient emotionally and mentally to avoid criminals from manipulating you during the process of profiling or while you provide them assistance is important as many of them may be experiencing some psychological disorder causing you to sympathize with their condition.
2. Solution-oriented: A forensic psychologist is expected to carry a problem-solving attitude and also the ability to have a calming influence on others when they are in distress is something that could be beneficial in this career.
3. Accepting dynamism: Designing sessions, changing them on the spot in case of adversities, focusing on better relationship building, and accepting dynamism in job situations are all things that may come to a person practicing forensic psychology with experience.
4. Ability to empathize: Extending Unconditional Positive Response to the clients can make them want to share their true intentions behind committing a crime. You need to be empathetic to understand their reasons and psychological states to help them guide better.
5. Effective communication skills: Psychologists are trained to communicate and assess the feelings and emotions of others from the very beginning. In the case of criminals too, applying previous learning can help you aptly get a hold of the offender’s body language which may be beneficial in moving with further rehab strategy.
6. Inquisitive attitude: Being inquisitive about things like why people commit crimes, what leads them to deviate from the normal path, do social and economic constraints have a role to play in this, and the like are questions that forensic psychologists sought to find answers for.
Forensic psychology or Criminal psychology?
Although forensic and criminal psychology is two separate and distinguished fields of applied psychology, most colleges in India offer a forensic/criminal psychology degree without demarketing the difference between them. Forensic psychology majorly is the application of different theories, principles, and strategies of psychology to the legal systems whereas criminal psychology is the application of psychological knowledge to investigate and understand the reason behind criminal behavior.
How to become a forensic psychologist in India?
Having completed your undergraduate course in Psychology as a subject from a recognized university is essential to enroll in a graduate or diploma level course in Forensic Psychology in India. Forensic psychologists are not bound to have certifications but it definitely serves as an advantage adding to your credibility and expertise. However, it is important to note that even clinical psychologists, counselors, neurologists, school psychologists, etc. are also called upon to work in the settings of forensic psychologists to render their services.
Job potential in India:
In India, a forensic/ criminal psychologist assists in conducting procedures like EEGs, MRIs, narcotic tests, lie detector tests, and polygraph tests to name a few. They assess crimes, devise psychometric tests for criminals, prepare convicts mentally in case of capital punishment or life imprisonment, and provide counseling and therapy services apart from chalking out rehabilitation strategies for their clients who are jail inmates in this case. Forensic Psychologists can work with Crime Investigation Bureau (CBI) or other intelligence and investigating agencies, Narcotics Bureau, Rehabilitation Centers, NGOs, Juvenile Centers, Courtrooms, and varied areas tied up to criminal activities and behaviors.
Specializing in Forensic Psychology:
Although the job is exhausting mentally and physically due to the constant exposure to criminal mentalities and behaviors, those working as forensic psychologists do have a significant role to play in the reformative system of society. They offer support by devoting their efforts and working to the best of their abilities through individual-specific strategies. It is obvious and natural to be disheartened when devised strategies fail or are not as successful as planned but people in this line of work do develop a high level of threshold over time. However, one needs to be self-aware and evaluate themselves with respect to the pros and cons of such a taxing job.
Allowing yourself to think, weighing your strengths and weaknesses, and also learning about the dynamic career options and job roles before opting for a specific career path can save you from academic and later work-related stress and burden. Aligning your career with your interests gives you a chance to enjoy work and additionally proves to be a motivational factor pushing you to perform better.