What Is a Forensic Psychologist?


Quick Answer

Forensic psychologists are professionals who apply the study of psychology to the theory and practice of the law. Experts in the field may be trained in any form of psychology, and they often work with law enforcement and the courts to assess suspects' and defendants' competence to stand trial.

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Full Answer

Forensic psychology is an intersectional discipline that operates on the boundary between the legal profession and the therapeutic approach to human psychology. Forensic psychologists are often trained in clinical psychology and work in a wide variety of subdisciplines within the legal system.

Forensic psychologists are called on by courts to determine the mental state of the accused, both at the time of trial and at the time of the offense, work with juvenile suspects and victims, testify to the likelihood of a crime having been committed with intent and sometimes as consultants during the sentencing phase of a trial. As sentencing consultants, forensic psychologists offer expert testimony regarding the defendant's intent, remorse and the effects of punishment or rehabilitation approaches for the defendant's sentence. They are also employed as consultants for law enforcement to develop psychological profiles of unknown suspects and to help develop leads and narrow down suspect lists based on the clues recovered from crime scenes.

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