Forensic psychology is a branch of psychology and the forensic psychologist is its representative. This branch deals with the mental processes that hide behind an individual and that end up directing their conduct. We can therefore affirm that the first of the subjects that guide the evaluation of an individual’s mental abilities is the judicial sphere.
The forensic psychologist will be the professional in charge of technical advice to prosecutors, judges, lawyers, and so on, regarding the psychological aspect and the relationship of this aspect with justice. His work consists of studying the minds of subjects regarding the system and administration of justice.
Functions of the forensic psychologist
The forensic psychologist participates in the various judicial processes in which his presence is required. It will have the task of gathering the necessary information, examining the subject, developing surveys and so on; finally, it will present the tests and results obtained. All this in order to answer the questions posed by the judge.
The main task is to try to resolve the doubts that arise in the professionals of justice. The different actors participating in a process do not possess skills on all social, relational, scientific, etc. subjects. For this reason, experts in any area are required, in order to clarify important elements to correctly solve the case.
We cannot forget that we live in an organic society: there is a strong division of labor. Individuals specialize in a certain area, but they need the knowledge of the rest of society. A system of functional relationships is established between the different professionals. Cooperation is based on the contribution that each can make to help compensate for the other’s shortcomings.
Contexts in which it participates
The forensic psychologist, as we have already announced, collaborates with the judicial system. It is usually associated with criminal trials, focusing its action in the criminal sphere. However, there are many other disciplines in which its presence is required:
- Family law: that is, to determine whether the parents are in a position to take care of the child during the divorce procedure; give guidelines on access rights; analyze existing dysfunctions that may affect the child due to separation, etc.
- Civil law: legal incapacity with respect to the free disposal, above all, of assets.
- Criminal law: criminal imputability (if the subject was aware of what he was doing and acted voluntarily and on the basis of this awareness); effects of violence on the victim; existence of a possible disorder, and so on.
- Labor law: incapacity to work; situations of mobbing (with possible consequences on the subject’s daily activities), etc.
- Minors: witness reliability; psychological consequences, etc.
Preparation of the reports by the forensic psychologist
The reports are documents drawn up by the experts, in which the questions formulated by the judge are answered. They serve as an expert’s proof. The forensic psychologist will have to make a report every time he is asked for his opinion on a court case.
The content of the report must be accurate and concise, and must omit any details that may be superfluous. It has to go straight to the heart of the case. At the same time, its drafting must be clear, trying to avoid very specialized jargon.
We cannot forget that this document is delivered to people who are not part of the world of psychology or of the specific sector. Precisely for this reason, we must not be too technical, otherwise we would not understand what we want to communicate.
At the same time, we cannot get out of the parameters of objectivity and scientific rigor. Any psychological tests performed must be duly reported. The usefulness, the procedure methods, the results obtained, the reliability of the same, etc. will be emphasized.
As is evident, the forensic psychologist must receive university training at the faculty of Psychology. In addition, he will have to be specialized in this branch. But that is not all. He will also have to be able to count on continuous training and keep up-to-date on the news of the sector, reported by various scientific articles.
On the other hand, it is not enough that he has expertise in psychological matters, but also in law. Obviously, he will work within the administrations, therefore he will have to know the stages of the process as well as the various laws that regulate it and determine the penalties that can be imposed for negligence.
However, not everything is based on academic training. The forensic psychologist cannot be emotionally involved in the case he is facing, as his task as an expert would be invalidated. Empathy is also a value to consider, along with tolerance and frustration. Assertiveness, good oratory, will be other characteristics that will add points to his profession.
In conclusion, the forensic psychologist breaks with the idea we have of the standardized profession of psychologist, shown by the series or the films. Legal and forensic psychology is a sometimes unknown field, but necessary for resolving issues that require a more scientific point of view.