Forensic Psychologists have an interesting life because they never know what to expect. Two people working in the field often have a significantly different day. Even those working in the same area of expertise find that their daily lives are quite different. There's not really a typical day in the world of forensic psychology, but there are a few examples of what they do in a given day.
A large number of forensic psychologists spend their time on research tasks. They look through case files, talk with witnesses, and write up reports based on what they learn or know. They compile documents for other researchers and files on cases they have worked on in the past. On any given day a forensic psychologist might spend their entire shift on research or catching up on their paperwork.
Jury selection is another way in which a forensic psychologist might spend a typical day. Lawyers on both sides hire these individuals to help them chose the best jury for their situation. On a day prior to jury selection, the psychologist meets with the lawyer and determines the type of jury they need. They then come up with a list of possible questions to ask those during the selection process. On the day of jury selection, the psychologist listens to the responses of those on hand and watches their body language. They offer their advice to the lawyer on the best and worst possible choices.
Profiling is done by some forensic psychologists and this usually involves a variety of different days. They spend several days in isolation with just the case files, witness reports, and evidence. They spend a few more days writing up their notes in regards to those files and documents. Finally, they draw up those notes to create a profile on the criminal and another day where they will discuss the profile with law enforcement.
An expert witness is another type of job done by forensic psychologists and this process involves a few different days. On one day the individual examines the case file and looks for any problems in the evidence. On another day they go through the case again and compile notes regarding their views on the case. They take another day to meet with the lawyer and discuss their findings. On yet another day they arrive at the courtroom, wait until they're called, and then discuss their findings in the courtroom.
When a criminal is arrested of a crime and the police take note of any mental instability, they call in a forensic psychologist. This person is responsible for determining the mental stability of that person and whether they're capable of standing trial for their crime. A typical day in this scenario involves sitting down with the criminal and running through a series of different psychological tests to check their emotional responses. They will then make a determination on the insanity or healthiness of the individual. It's fairly obvious that there's no such thing as a typical day in the life of a forensic psychologist as their tasks and duties change every day.
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Below is a list of tasks a Forensic Psychologist maybe involved in on a day-to-day basis:
- Carrying out one-to-one assessments, often to assess the risk of re-offending (e.g. for those who have been serving a life sentence being released into the community or sex offenders after a treatment programme) or of suicide, self-injury or other high risk behavior
- Presenting findings from assessments to a wider staff audience
- Advising prison governors on incidents
- Developing and evaluating the contribution of assessment techniques such as psychometrics
- Undertaking research projects to evaluate the contribution of specific service elements, policy initiatives or group programme developments, e.g. exploring probation 'drop-out' rates, investigating the impact of bullying in the prison environment, or evaluating the effectiveness of an anger management group programme
- Participating in delivery or management of nationally recognised cognitive-behavioral group programmes, e.g. enhanced thinking skills, or severe personality disorder and sex offender treatment programmes
- Checking and monitoring treatment groups to ensure standards and quality
- Overseeing the training of prison/probation service staff
- Preparing risk assessment reports
- Overseeing the provision of support during serious incidents
- Hostage negotiation
- Liaising with and providing consultancy to hospital staff, prison officers, the police, social workers, probation officers, representatives of the judicial and legal systems and university staff
- Attending team and area meetings.
Other tasks include:
- Management and administration
- Analysing local, area and national policy to develop strategies for continuous improvement
- Casework notes and court work, sometimes including attendance and providing expert witness testimony.