Forensic Psych 101
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
I get asked about my work a lot. I mean, a lot. No doubt people's fascination with all things forensic have been continually perpetuated by media and sensationalized entertainment outlets. But it absolutely is fascinating and different every single day.
The term forensic (in any field of study) is going to refer to the overlapping of the criminal justice system. Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Computer Analysis, etc. Generally these are going to be experts in a specific field that are called in to either help during an investigation or to testify as an expert in court.
Forensic psychology is no different. The majority of forensic psychologists are referred clients for evaluation and/ or therapy from the courts or from a criminal justice entity such as a prison or parole department. They may also be called upon to testify as an expert witness in their specific area of expertise without having seen any clients or defendants personally. Four instance, a psychologist may specialize in treating child victims of abuse and may testify to how an abused child may behave.
Other areas of forensic psychology include conducting evaluations for child custody disputes, consulting with attorneys to help pick the perfect jury for a trial, or working as a therapist to men and women in law-enforcement careers.
As a forensic psychologist, I work with clients who are about to go to prison or who are transitioning back into the community after being incarcerated. As many of my colleagues and dear friends know, this can be either a conversation killer or the beginning of 1000 questions. It's true, I work with the worst of the worst, but I also work with some very average, everyday individuals who have made some poor decisions in their lives. For those going into prison, we work on anxiety, depression, and just basically wrapping their minds around the nearing prison experience. For those coming out, it's about dealing with life on "the outside" again and prevention of any further crimes, usually in a specific area such as partner violence or sexual offending.
It's a career choice that is challenging, yet rewarding. I found that the key to preventing burnout in such a serious, high stress job is variety. Not only do I work with the offenders, I teach, I train, I write, and I keep myself informed of the latest research. The best way that I have found to accomplish this is by inserting myself into environments that consistently challenge me to learn. I attend as many trainings as possible and strive to present new material or ideas at conferences at least every other year.
As I discussed in my post about opportunity, this has been the link that has facilitated the majority of my far-flung travels. If you want to see where my work has taken me, you can click on the "conference" label.
It's been important to take my love for my job and intertwine my love for travel in a way that fits my family's lifestyle. It sounds amazing to have a job where you're a full-time traveler, but research shows that when something you love and enjoy for pleasure becomes your "work," it usually turns into a chore and you no longer enjoy it and may even come to resent it.
No thank you. I think I'll keep things just the way they are.