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Legal, criminological and forensic

Being a Forensic Psychologist

What's it like to be a psychologist working in forensic contexts?

05 June 2019

The BPS Division of Forensic Psychology defines forensic psychology as follows: 

"Forensic Psychology is the application of psychology within the legal system to create safer communities and to assist people to find pathways away from criminal behaviour.

Forensic Psychologists work across many settings including, HM Prison and Probation Service, Hospitals, secure children's homes, police forces, Courts and Universities.

In practice this means Forensic Psychologists assess, formulate and intervene in those engaging in harmful behaviours, provide advice and expertise to other professionals, and develop and facilitate training and knowledge in forensic settings, all with the ultimate goal of contributing to the development of a safer society."

We have met several forensic psychologists over the years; here's a collection of some of our most recent interviews.

'Even after the worst possible days, what's sustaining is the connections'
Yvonne Shell on looking at offenders across the lifespan.

'You can always find something inside someone to work with'
Yvette Bates on learning from prisoners.

'There was no standardised treatment for people who set deliberate fires'
Theresa Gannon on developing a new psychological treatment.

5 minutes with… Dr Emily Glorney
Emily Glorney on fitness to plead tests.

Of course, many of our articles have also considered research and practice in areas of forensic psychology. Here's a small selection. 

'We need to change the conversation'
Terri van Leeson on preventative therapy for paedophiles.

'There is a problem with juries acting on myths rather than evidence'
Dominic Willmott on inaccurate beliefs about rape. 

'My job is to use evidence to change the conversation'
Paul Dawson on evidence-based policy in policing and crime.

Female offender care
Chris Millar on work as an assistant psychologist

Are criminal profilers "any better than a bartender?" not necessarily, suggests review of 40 years of relevant research
Guest blogger Tomasz Witkowski for the Research Digest on a systematic review of offender profiling publications.

"Who holds prison psychologists to account?"
A prisoner at HMP Whatton writes to us, and their Governor and Psychology Lead respond. 

Prisoner of the mind
An image from an inmate at HM Prison Winchester, courtesy of the Koestler Trust, leads a collection of articles on psychology in prisons.

Adult autism – hidden in forensic settings
Sarah Ashworth and Ruth J. Tully promote debate on the visibility of autism in forensic services.

Here's our pick of top content on forensic psychology from elsewhere.

The scientists persuading terrorists to spill their secrets
The Guardian. Ian Leslie on the role of Emily Alison and Laurence Alison in revolutionising interrogation practices.

How to spot a liar – even if he isn't a cabinet minister
The Guardian. Emine Saner speaks to forensic psychologists about how to tell when someone is lying.

Psychologists in the prison service
HM Prison and Probation Service. Watch the stories of three psychologists working in the prison service.

Read more about forensic psychology from The Psychologist in our archive. Find out more about training routes and careers in forensic psychology on the BPS careers website, and watch the BPS video 'What is forensic psychology?'