In the early decades, most forensic psychologists were limited to psychological testing. Rarely did forensic psychologists testify in court. Rendering opinions in court was the role of the forensic psychiatrist. Then, over time, forensic psychologists began to perform evaluations in traditional criminal cases, such as insanity or competence to stand trial, regularly offering testimony in such cases.
It is not uncommon for lay persons to erroneously believe that criminal investigative analysis, commonly referred to as "criminal profiling," is synonymous with forensic psychology, especially with the rise in popularity of television programs on profiling that incorporate psychological concepts. Further confusion may occur because practitioners in both fields read the same research, interview the same criminals, attend the same seminars, develop professional relationships, and cite one another's scholarship.
The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), since their beginnings as the American Board of Examiners in Professional Psychology in 1947, has increased from three to eleven recognized areas of specialization, one of which is forensic psychology (Bent. Goldberg & Packard, 1999). The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes the forensic specialty and has a division for forensic practitioners (41, American Psychology-Law Society). However, the APA has yet to produce recommended training or credentialing guidelines for forensic psychologists, thus leaving unclear the route to become a forensic psychologist.
However, the accuracy of information is critical in forensic psychology; "a complete forensic evaluation almost always includes verification of the litigant's accuracy against other information sources about the events in question" (Greenberg and Shuman 1997, 50). This requires a comprehensive review of collateral documentation and collateral interviews to substantiate or disconfirm the client's story.
"A fundamental problem in forensic psychology practice is the lack of formal statistical methods to support team decisions about an individual patient's progress during intramural treatment. It is common practice to base decisions about the progress of a treatment on subjective clinical impressions of therapists," scientists in Netherlands report.
First, forensic psychologists and the law have a common goal: the prevention and management of criminal behavior. Many of psychologists' ethical dilemmas in forensic settings stem from the belief that psychology and the law do not have a common goal.6 Furthermore, for forensic psychologists and the law to truly work together towards the shared goal of prevention and management of criminal behavior, the legal system has to produce an environment that is conducive to therapeutic efforts.
Such an evolutionary forensic psychology will be valuable for several reasons. First, adaptationist logic has a firm theoretical basis in welltested evolutionary theories, such as Darwin's (1859) Theory of Natural Selection and Hamilton's (1964a, b) Inclusive Fitness Theory (see also Haldane, 1955). These and other evolutionary theories provide a powerful set of explanatory tools that researchers can use to integrate existing knowledge about crime and to generate novel hypotheses about the nature of criminal and victim behavior.
Forensic psychologists are most commonly employed by the Prison Service. Note that this service employs people in prisons and also in the Home Office Research and Development Unit.
You could also find forensic psychologists in rehabilitation units and secure hospitals (employed by the NHS), in the police service, in young offenders' units and the probation service, or in private consultancy.
Forensic science involves the study of physical evidence and behaviour analysis associated with a crime scene. The study of psychology and psychiatry will be used throughout this article to define behaviour studies. This article will not differentiate the medical versus the clinical differences associated with each field and as such the terms may be used interchangeably. The forensic psychologist integrates clinical experience and mental health studies where the forensic psychiatrist includes the knowledge of medicine and the neurosciences allowing both to form an independent and objective opinion.
Forensic psychology is generally construed broadly to encompass contributions that psychology can make to a relevant legal question. This includes assessment of legal issues that are based in clinical psychology, such as fitness to stand trial, criminal responsibility, or risk for violence, but also legal issues that draw on expertise in other areas of psychology, such as eyewitness testimony, jury decision-making, or discrimination in the workplace.