Forensic psychologists mainly work in the prison and probation services. Their central functionis the treatment and assessment of offenders. They work closely with them and develop treatment programmes and intervention techniques. They aim to repair or manage psychological or emotional trauma in cases of depression, anxiety or anger in offenders.Psychologists develop one-to-one or group treatment programmes and are also expected to present critical analysis of standard offender treatment or management programmes, and help to train other staff. They perform detailed research for specific cases and testify their findings in court as well as providing guidance and advice to mental health tribunals and parole boards.
A typical day for a forensic psychologist may involve carrying out one-to-one assessments to determine the likelihood of re-offence in cases of high risk behaviour (such as self-harm or suicide), undertaking research projects to evaluate the contribution of specific service elements, policy initiatives or group programme developments, for example exploring probation ‘drop-out’ rates, investigating the impact of bullying in the prison environment, or evaluating the effectiveness of an anger management group programmes. It may also involve regularly monitoring and checking treatment programmes to ensure that standards are being upheld and progress is under way, overseeing other areas of support including that being administered during and after serious incidents, and overseeing the training and assessment of other prison and probation staff. Forensic psychologists may also be expected to perform hostage negotiations.
All prospective Forensic Psychologists should be fully aware of the demanding entry requirements associated with the field. Hopefuls should meet the minimum entry requirement, known as the Graduate Basis for Registration. Requirements include a minimum of a 2:2 degree in a British Psychological Society accredited psychology undergraduate course. However, a 2:1 is preferred as an MSc in a related field is becoming an increasingly popular requirement. Additionally, pre-entry experience is usually required, including time in a relevant role, such as a psychological assistant or work in the prison, probation or social services. Voluntary work such as assisting the Samaritans or Victim Support would also be considered.
Successful candidates would have up-to-date knowledge of current issues in the prison and probation services, will come bearing their own ideas for the improvement and development of treatments, and will be equipped with knowledge of the roles and responsibilities associated with forensic psychology. They should also show strong leadership and management skills personal skills such as problem solving and team-working, and should be fully aware of the degree of personal risk that the role is associated with.
An undergraduate degree in a British Psychological Society accredited course.
Work in a closely related role such as a psychological assistant is required.
Knowledge and keen interest in related issues, leadership skills, people skills, written, verbal and IT communication skills, problem solving skills, team work skills.