PSY 494: Forensic Psychology
This course provides an introduction to the clinical practice of forensic psychology – the assessment and treatment of people who interact with the legal system. “Forensic” comes from the Latin word for “court,” and “forensic psychologists” are psychologists who help courts make decisions about people when some question of mental state is involved. Thus, forensic psychologists typically are involved in cases “pre-adjudication,” which means before the legal decision is made. This course focuses on the ways in which psychologists do clinical work (assessment and treatment) to help courts make informed decisions about cases. We learn about how forensic psychology developed as a field and the major ways in which psychologists are involved in both the criminal and civil court systems. For example, in the criminal justice system, psychologists help resolve legal questions about defendants’ competency to stand trial, sanity at the time of offense, risk of future violence, and risk of future sex offenses. In the civil justice system, psychologists help resolve cases involving sexual harassment, child custody, and personal injury, among other issues.
- Demonstrate an ability to think critically and analyze the issues presented in forensic psychology.
- Identify and discuss landmark cases that demonstrate the practical role of forensic psychology (such as the impact of intelligence testing in the Atkins vs. Virginia case).
- Explain the unique challenges that forensic psychologists face clinically, legally, and ethically.
- Analyze how the law can be therapeutic or anti-therapeutic for the people most directly affected by it.
- Apply the concepts learned in the course to current real-life cases.
- Discover how to become a forensic psychologist and identify various careers in forensic psychology.