What Is a Typical Day Like for a Forensic Mental Health Professional?

Working as a forensic mental health professional can be a rewarding experience. This field allows you to work in both law and psychology. Depending on your job title, you may work in rehabilitation centers, prisons, government agencies, police departments, jails, schools or law firms.

Working In Forensic Psychology

Working in this field allows individuals to work in psychology as well as law. These individuals may work for defendants, prosecutors or in government institutions. Depending on the specific position, individuals may need a bachelor's degree or higher.

A Day in the Life

Once hired for this position, forensic mental health workers can be employed in a variety of situations. Even in a single job, the individual's daily activities may change on a daily basis. In any given day, the individual may be responsible for completing one-on-one assessments. These assessments may be used to determine if someone is at risk for re-offending or committing suicide. They later present these findings to the right staff members.

After an incident, this professional may provide advice to a prison governor. They may create and use assessment techniques depending on the situation. Some individuals in this field participate in managing cognitive-behavioral programs, creating risk assessment reports or training probation staff members. They may research probation drop-out rates, specific policy initiatives, group program developments or the effectiveness of anger management programs.

While some individuals work in a prison or probation setting, other mental health professionals are actively engaged in the law enforcement community. Because of their background in mental health, they may be used during hostage negotiations. They may consult with hospital staff, social workers or legal representatives. In addition, some mental health professionals provide support services after a major, traumatic incident occurs.

Evaluating Criminals

One of the jobs of forensic professionals is to evaluate criminals. A lawyer may ask for a competency hearing to decide if the criminal is capable of standing trial. The mental health professional is told to evaluate the criminal and submit their results. They may also work with families during divorce or custody hearings.

Testifying in Court

Since many professionals work with criminals and law enforcement officials, they may have to testify on a fairly regular basis. If they are working on a custody or divorce hearing, they may have to testify about the behaviors they witnessed. In many cases, they will be asked to provide proof about whether a shared or full custody agreement should be allowed. They may have to testify about the meetings with clients, their education level and training. Basically,the individual has to show that they are an expert in the field.

To succeed in this field, students should study forensic psychology in schools. In their academic program, they learn how to research topics and collect data. Internships, clinical experience and job shadows can help students improve their resumes and increase their chances of being hired after graduation.

With the right preparation, students can prepare for a rewarding career as a forensic mental health professional. From working as a psychologist to finding a position as a social worker, there are many different careers available within this growing field.