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Areas of psychology

Forensic psychology

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Psychologists Enhancing Justice

Forensic psychologists apply psychological theory and skills in the legal and criminal justice system. They often work in criminal, civil and family legal contexts and provide services for perpetrators, victims and justice personnel.

Forensic psychology encompasses issues such as the causes, prevention and treatment of criminal behaviour, police psychology, the courts and the correctional system and provision of psychological evidence to legal proceedings.

What is forensic psychology?

Forensic psychology is an area of psychology that interfaces with the legal and justice systems. It encompasses elements such as:

  • Expert psychological evidence (written reports and/or oral evidence) in courts (civil, criminal, family, coroner and others) and other tribunals (e.g. compensation tribunals, guardianship boards, parole boards, administrative appeals tribunals).
  • Consultation to areas of the legal and justice system (e.g., trial process and preparation, impact of court proceedings on witnesses and other participants, mediation, police investigations, crime prevention, correctional services, workplace safety, child protection and victims’ needs).
  • Development and delivery of research and clinical services to forensic populations (e.g., counselling children affected by divorce, treatment of substance use disorders, psychotherapy for victims of crime, assessment and treatment of offenders, parenting training).

Areas of expertise

Forensic psychologists are scientist-­practitioners. They apply psychological knowledge, theory and skills to the understanding and functioning of legal and criminal justice systems, and to conducting research in relevant areas. They often work in criminal, civil and family legal contexts and provide services for litigants, perpetrators, victims, and personnel from government and community organisations.

Forensic psychologists are employed in a variety of areas:

  • Courts and other tribunals
  • Mental health (both general services and forensic mental health services)
  • Corrections (adult and juvenile, prisons and community)
  • Child protection
  • Family services (e.g., family violence counselling services, parent training programs)
  • Alcohol and other drug services
  • Rehabilitation services (e.g., pain clinics, head injury services)
  • Police
  • Academia, research and policy organisations
  • Private practice

Skills and competencies of forensic psychologists

  • Collecting and reporting (both in written reports and oral) evidence of psychological nature for use in legal and quasi‐legal proceedings
  • Psychological assessment and report writing
  • Psychological formulation and diagnosis
  • Psychological intervention (psychoeducation; individual, group and family psychotherapies; rehabilitation)
  • Program evaluation
  • Consultation
  • Supervision
  • Education and training
  • Research

Standards

The APS College of Forensic Psychologists promotes the highest standards for forensic practice in Australia. These standards are also consistent with international standards for forensic psychology practice.

Members of the Australian Psychological Society College of Forensic Psychologists will also have the following post-nominal after their name

  • MCFP (Member of the College of Forensic Psychologists)