Forensic Psychology

Woman testifying in courtForensic psychology is the branch of psychology that studies and treats psychological conditions as they relate to the criminal and civil justice systems.

The legal system is increasingly interested in the opinions, assessment, and treatment offered by psychologists. Forensic psychologists can serve a number of roles and may offer assessments, expert testimony, or treatment to people involved in the legal system.

Common services provided by forensic psychologists include:

  • Providing mental health assessments for defendants who may not be competent to stand trial or who use the insanity defense. They may be employed by the government or contracted by defense attorneys.
  • Providing mental health evaluations to parties involved in civil lawsuits. This is particularly common in divorce and child custody cases.
  • Providing treatment to inmates in correctional institutions.
  • Providing expert testimony in both civil and criminal cases.
  • Developing profiles of people who commit violent crimes.

Differences Between Forensic and Traditional Psychology
Forensic psychologists face unique obstacles and ethical dilemmas in their line of work because forensic psychology has several important differences from more traditional psychotherapy. Clients are frequently not meeting with the psychologist on a voluntary basis, and may have limited or no opportunity to direct the course of their treatment. Forensic psychologists may often not follow the traditional rules of confidentiality, particularly when their work occurs in an evaluative context. Because of this, people seeing these psychologists may be more likely to withhold information and forensic psychologists must often fill the role of investigator.

Forensic psychologists frequently make recommendations about child custody, incarceration, and sentencing that can dramatically affect a person’s life. For this reason, people may diminish or exaggerate the severity of their symptoms. Malingering is a common issue faced by forensic psychologists.

Training for Forensic Psychologists
Forensic psychologists generally complete doctoral programs in psychology, and may write dissertations on forensic psychology. They frequently complete additional training with local courts or jails, and some schools offer specific degrees in forensic psychology. The American Board of Forensic Psychology is the regulating board associated with forensic psychologists.


  1. Forensic Psychology. (n.d.). American Board of Forensic Psychology. Retrieved from
  2. Kring, A. M., Johnson, S. L., Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2010). Abnormal psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Last Updated: 08-7-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • juile

    November 9th, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    I would like more information in this subject or if there is a forensic physiology doctor that I could talk to in Eau Claire wi or close by please email me and let me know

  • Randy

    October 9th, 2020 at 5:10 AM

    Analytics at its best!!!s

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