What do Forensic Psychologists Do?
Forensic psychologists are independent witnesses (they are not treating providers to the plaintiff and do not have a vested interest in the outcome of the case), who are qualified by the court in which they testify. Their testimony is scientifically based. In federal court they are asked questions to determine if they are qualified under Daubert Standards. Daubert standards can be found in the glossary section of this website. Forensic vocational experts are persons who have expertise in earning capacity and ability to perform work after an injury. Wage loss experts are also independent witnesses and must be qualified by the court.
How do you become a forensic psychologist?
First, to call yourself a psychologist you must have the appropriate licensure for the state in which you practice. Being a Ph.D., having two years post-doctoral supervised experience and passing both the national and state level exam are some of the criteria. To be a forensic psychologist you have to be qualified by the judge in the court you are testifying and be able to offer opinions that the court deems providing information above and beyond what the jurors would know only through their own experiences. The background, training, and expertise of the forensic psychologist must conform to Daubert standards. Vocational experts are forensic specialists as well. To testify about vocational matters the expert has to be qualified to offer information that conforms to acceptable professional standards.
Are there forensic psychologists who don’t do criminal evaluations?
Yes. Although television programs only show criminal cases. The term forensic means to testify in a court of law about a specific area of expertise, in this case testifying about psychological issues. Forensic psychologists testify in civil litigation-person injury matters, social security hearings, workers compensation, probate and other courts where psychological issues are being presented.
Are forensic psychologists criminal profilers?
Yes but profiling does not require being a psychologist. Typically profiling is considered a practice that the FBI and criminal investigators do for criminal matters. In civil litigation, profiling is not a requirement for testimony. In criminal matters, profiling helps the investigator to determine the type of person who may have committed a particular type of crime. For example who would be a serial murder or who would have committed arson given the fire that was set and being investigated.
Is it dangerous being a forensic psychologist?
In the 40+ years that I have been providing forensic psychological services, there have been 2 occasions in which my safety was in jeopardy. Both times I was asked to evaluate alleged murders in their jail cell. An evaluator’s safety can be a concern when they are dealing with someone who has a violent history or incorrectly perceives the psychologist as being their enemy and mistake the psychologist as a target they need to eliminate.