Subspecialties in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is sometimes misunderstood, as many are unaware that the field encompasses several subspecialties. These subspecialties include: police psychology, military psychology, criminal forensic psychology, civil forensic psychology, juvenile psychology, investigative psychology, and correctional psychology (Bartol & Bartol, 2012). There are several career options and specialties within each subfield of forensic psychology. In order to evaluate which field is the best for an aspiring student, it is important to understand some of the positions as a psychologist in each subspecialty.

Police Psychology has many aspects in which the psychologist endeavors.   For example, some of the duties of a police psychologist would be to conduct assessments, interventions, operations, and research in regards to job analysis, offender profiling, counseling, and interrogation methods (Bartol & Bartol, 2012). The psychologist also can conduct evaluations and research in a particular area within law enforcement. Anthony Pinizzotto is a scientist and psychologist working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the Psychological Science Agenda, in the Convention issue of 2003, the article states: “I’ve assisted in developing a program entitled “The Use of Deadly Force in Law Enforcement. This three-day seminar was established to assist Assistant United States Attorneys review the use of deadly force incidents by members of law enforcement” (p. 1). The scope of a police, forensic psychologist is extremely broad and the individual is able to complete a variety of tasks, some of which are listed above.

Military Psychology is another subfield that can be sometimes related to police  psychology. Military Psychologists typically work for a branch of the military or are contracted out by the Department of Defense (Sutker, Uddo, Brailey, Vasterling,  & Errera, 1994). The role of this specialty is more focused on the clinical side versus the research side. These psychologists spend most of their time trying to prevent issues relatively than treating the problems. In this the professional is able to provide counseling, oversee treatment, and can sometimes participate in research. In 1994, an article in The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology describes a group of military psychologists that  conduct research in regards to Desert Storm. Soldiers seeing death and dismemberment were coming home with several signs of psychological issues. With these studies and several others, society has a deeper appreciation for the soldiers and the psychological issues that each member has when returning home (Sutker, Uddo, Brailey, Vasterling,  & Errera, 1994).

Correctional psychology is another popular subspecialty in forensic psychology. The role of a mental health professional in this subspecialty is to emphasize treatment and security within the prison systems (Weinberger & Sreenivasan, 1994).  These psychologists are able to administer and interpret intelligence and personality tests, interview prisoners and prepare his or her treatment, is able to make recommendations to the warden/parole officer, and may assist in planning reports, etc. (Weinberger & Sreenivasan, 1994). A psychologist in this field must understand psychology and law and how each correlate to each other. Legal rights of inmates are significant to the evaluation and clinical treatments.

With many subspecialty fields in forensic psychology, an aspiring psychologist or student is able to pinpoint and make a more educated decision on which field he or she would like to enter. Knowing each specialty and the careers and duties that are requested of the professional, the upcoming psychologist will able to understand the treatment approaches, research methods, and assessment intakes within each group. The importance is now on the several areas in forensic psychology and not just a blanket understanding of the field. These subspecialties of forensic psychology  include: police psychology, military psychology, criminal forensic psychology, civil forensic psychology, juvenile psychology, investigative psychology, and correctional psychology (Bartol & Bartol, 2012). There are several career options and specialties within each subfield of forensic psychology. In order to evaluate which field is the best for an aspiring student, it is important to understand some of the positions as a psychologist in each subspecialty. Some may choose a subspecialty based on personal experience, interest, and research.

The roles of psychology professionals in general contribute to forensic psychology subspecialties. For example, if a military psychologist has a breaking through method of interrogations used in combat or other areas, a police psychologist may adapt or adopt a similar method. Hence growing the field. Each professional contributes to the general field in each of their specialties.

 

References

Bartol, C. R., & Bartol, A. M. (2012). Introduction to Forensic Psychology Research and Application (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publication Inc.

Pinizzotto, A. J. (2003, August). An interesting career in psychology: Forensic Psychologist. Psychological Science Agenda, 16(4), 1-3. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/profiles/pinizzotto.aspx

Sutker, P. B., Uddo, M., Brailey, K., Vasterling, J. J., & Errera, P. (1994). Psychopathology in war-zone deployed and nondeployed Operation Desert Storm troops assigned graves registration duties. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, 103(2), 4-12. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.103.2.383

Weinberger, L. E., & Sreenivasan, S. (1994). Ethical and Professional Conflicts in Correctional Psychology. US: American Psychological Association, Professional Psychology, 25(2), 1-6. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.25.2.161

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