FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY is a relatively new branch of psychology but relates to one of the fastest growing areas of the discipline as indicated by an increase of the practice of clinical psychology within the legal system and the increasing interest expressed by undergraduate and graduate students.

The word forensic is derived from the Latin word forensis meaning of the forum where the law courts of ancient Rome were held. Dictionary meaning of psychology is science of human mind and behavior. Hence superimposing both these key words, the literal meaning will evolve as application of psychological principles and methods to any area of legal system. Forensic psychology is therefore the interface between psychology and law. So all psychological services provided for by the legal community are forensic psychological services.

There continues to be debate about the definition and spread of the term forensic psychology. Some professionals apply the term in a broad sense to describe any intersection of legal system and psychology (Wrightman 2001). However, others use it to specifically describe the clinical practice of psychology in legal contexts ( e.g Melton, Huss & Tomkins, 1999). But American Board of Forensic psychology and the American Psychology- Law society (1995) define forensic psychology as:

“The professional practice by psychologists within the areas of clinical psychology, counseling psychology, neuro-psychology, and school psychology, when they are engaged regularly as experts and represent themselves as such in an activity primarily intended to provide professional psychological expertise to the judicial system (P.6). Such a definition dwells on mental aspects of psychology and the law.


Forensic psychologists-What do they do?

A professional, practicing forensic psychology can be termed as a forensic psychologist. Clinical psychologists specializing in forensic psychology work with individuals who display a variety of mental illnesses and issues concerning mental health within the context of civil and criminal areas of law. Forensic psychologists are concerned with behavior pattern of individuals within the judicial and penal systems such as offenders, witnesses, victims, judges, juries, prisoners and prison staff.

Going by the broad definition of the term, forensic psychologists do a lot of different things:

Ø Basic and applied research on the legal system itself and / or any of the legal components ( study of legal practices and issues , criminal behavior, police perception , jury behavior , eye witness account , memory etc.).

Ø Training / Education for participants in the legal system (police, correctional staff , attorneys and judges etc.).

Ø Clinical Application (these are the activities that are widely known).

Ø Evaluations (insanity, various competencies, civil commitment, custody, claims for psychological injury, psychological fitness for law enforcement work etc.).

Ø Treatment (of offenders, inmates, police officers and their families, victims).

Ø Consultation to law enforcement agency (crisis intervention, hostage negotiation, critical incidents debriefing, psychological autopsy, psychological profiling).

* to courts (expert testimony , preparation of legal briefs , alternative

dispute resolution ).

* to lawyers ( evaluation of clients , briefing potential witnesses , jury



* to correctional agencies

Most of the works of a forensic psychologist centre on therapy in

correctional setup where specific activities include the following:

q to carryout one-to-one assessment – often to asses the

risk of offence recurrence, risk of self injury and suicide.

q criminal profiling and to make predictions about

the probable characteristics of unknown offenders.

q constructing and evaluating the role and contribution of

assessment techniques such as psychometrics.

· Undertaking research project to assess contribution of specific service segments, policy initiatives or group program developments like examining probation drop out rates etc.

· Participating in the delivery of or acting or co-ordinating as treatment manager for different national programs.

· Overseeing training of prison / service staff.

· Preparation of court reports in simple & intelligible language for non-psychologists.

· Overseeing provision of support services during serious incidents say like war or terror acts.

· Liaising with hospital staff, prison officials, the police, NGO’s, probation officers, representatives of judicial and legal systems and university staff.

· Attending team and area meetings.

· Other routine jobs include management, administration, case notes and court work etc.


Training and Education Required to Practice Forensic Psychology
Ways of training in forensic psychology is multi-dimensional. But the first pre- requisite for a forensic psychologist is to be a good clinical psychologist. This however does not simply refer to some one who