Forensic Psychology as a Career


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Presentation by Rachel Atkinson, Chartered & Registered Forensic Psychologist, at Sussex University (updated April 2013)

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  • Hi Rachel Atkinson,
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  • My role predominantly the latter and will talk more about that later on.
  • Do a bit of all of this, with exception of the latter, which normally is undertaken by police psychologists In the treatment of offenders, forensic psychologists are responsible for the development of programmes for rehabilitation. They may include addressing violent or sexual offending, anger management, social and cognitive skills deficits, and treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. In the support of prison staff, forensic psychologists may be responsible for the delivery of stress management or training on how to cope with understanding bullying, and techniques for hostage negotiation.
  • In this period also qualified as a CBT therapist and worked in private practice one day a week.
  • Private practice - CBT with people with mental health difficulties, provide risk assessments for courts.
  • Be sure - challenging field to work in - clients are not generally ‘willing’ or seeing you through choice. May have extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation to work with you (e.g. parole, release etc) rather than a desire to change. Faced with upsetting information both about their lives and the crimes they have committed Can be confrontational and intimidating.
  • Can be hard to get experience n secure settings due the security restrictions - look at working with people with drug and local use, homelessness, range of mental health problems.
  • Forensic Psychology as a Career

    1. 1. Forensic Psychology as acareerRachel Atkinson
    2. 2. What do forensic psychologists do?• Forensic psychology is concerned with the psychological aspects oflegal processes in courts. The term is also often used to refer toinvestigative and criminological psychology: applying psychologicaltheory to criminal investigation, understanding psychological problemsassociated with criminal behaviour and the treatment of criminals.
    3. 3. Key tasks undertaken by forensic psychologistsinclude:• piloting and implementing treatment programmes• modifying offender behaviour• responding to the changing needs of staff and prisoners• reducing stress for staff and prisoners• providing hard research evidence to support practice• undertaking statistical analysis for prisoner profiling• giving evidence in court• advising parole boards and mental health tribunals• crime analysis
    4. 4. Where do they work?• The largest single employer of forensic psychologists in the UK is HMPrison Service (which includes the Home Office Research andDevelopment Unit as well as prisons).• Forensic psychologists can also be employed in:– the health service (including rehabilitation units and secure hospitals)– the social service (including the police service, young offenders units, andthe probation service)– university departments– private consultancy.
    5. 5. Qualifying as a forensic psychologist• To become a Chartered Member of the Society through the forensicpsychology training route, you will need the following qualifications:• Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). This is achieved bycompleting a Society accredited degree or conversion course• Society accredited Masters in Forensic Psychology• Stage 2 of the Society’s Qualification in Forensic Psychology (twoyears supervised practice)• Some universities offer a doctorate programme in Forensic Psychology.This qualification makes you eligible to become a Chartered Member ofthe Society.• In order to use the title Forensic Psychologist, you will need to beregistered with the Health Professions Council (HPC).
    6. 6. My path….• Joint (hons) in Psychology and English literature• An MSc in Occupational Psychology• Conversion to Forensic Psychology via the BPS Certificate.• Assistant psychologist role in HMPS HQ researching thecriminogenic needs of female offenders.• Trainee psychologist role on a treatment programme for highrisk violent offenders. Gained chartership and promoted toNational Lead for the violence programme.• Moved to a project to design a treatment programme for veryviolent high risk psychopathic men. Now National Clinical Leadfor this programme.
    7. 7. Current role• Co-author of the programme for high risk violent and psychopathicoffenders. Oversee national and local implementation, deliver/overseenational staff training and supervision, provide clinical support andauditing, manage the budget and advise government on effectiveworking with this population.• Work clinically with violent offenders and conduct and supervise riskassessments.• Develop training workshops for staff in health and prison service onworking with personality disordered offenders.• Research and evaluate treatment effectiveness and present findings atnational and international conferences.• Publish journal articles and book chapters.• Supervise trainee forensic psychologists.
    8. 8. Tips/hints?• Be sure!
    9. 9. Is it for me?Yes, if….• You are nonjudgmental and believe in capacity for change• You can separate the person from their behavior• You are robust but able to learn from feedback and acknowledge yourown limitations• You want to protect the public as well as improve the lives of offenders• You are interested in legal processes and can cope with working insecure (often bleak!) environments• You work well in a team as well as independently.• You like a challenge! Literally a captive audience…..
    10. 10. How to get into it…• Get work experience - ideally working withpeople with challenging personal and socialhistories• Often universities will have links with HMPSor NHS• Be prepared to start as an assistant (even ifyou have a Masters!)• Find good supervisor who has contacts.