Criminal psychology, often referred to as forensic psychology, is the study of the behavior of criminals and why they act on the fringes, or completely outside of the law, so the expert can find the roots and reasons why they act like that, and help in the process of healing and including in the society after the court decides what to do with the particular person. It is an amalgamation of clinical psychology and criminal justice, one that requires you to have a deep and intimate knowledge of criminal behavior, psychology, and the justice system in your locale.
The expert, who is usually a specialized psychologist or psychotherapist, should establish a valuable and meaningful connection with the criminal, and then use the methods they know, so they can evaluate the condition of the patient, and conclude the whole case from the mental side.
Contrary to the sensationalized portrayals of criminal psychologists on TV, forensic psychology is about trying to understand how lawbreakers can be reformed and what actions can be taken to prevent them from breaking the law again upon reintegration into society. Every criminal, including those who are on a lifetime sentence, should go through this process, so they can understand better what they’ve done, and try to recognize the deepest reasons for their unusual and unacceptable behavior. Here are some of the reasons you should consider taking this career path.
1. You’ll get to make a Difference in People’s Lives
Most of the careers that are cited as the most satisfying and fulfilling are not the ones that offer the highest pay, but rather the ones that involve helping and caring for other people. Criminal psychology is one such career. You will be directly helping suspects, criminals, and ex-convicts learn about any metal disorders they might have, learn to cope with them, and maybe how to overcome them.
Additionally, you also help offenders reform, and in doing so, make the world a better place. It might be stressful to listen and talk to people who have committed dreadful crimes without being judgmental, but the gratification and fulfillment you get from helping them overcome their criminal behavior will outweigh the stress.
Psychological examination and therapy is an important process while they are in prison or jail, because they surely need that help, knowing that they took some illegal action, that leads them to end in that place. We should avoid stigmatizing these people because they all need proper help, so they can recover, realize what they’ve done, and proceed to live and behaving properly, as the society requires.
2. You Can Be Your Own Boss
Have you always wanted to be your own boss, plan your working hours by yourself and choose when do you want to work, and when to take a day off? Do you, in addition to helping people, relish the idea of being an entrepreneur, that will help you build a brand around your name? If so, criminal psychology might be a good fit for you. Criminal psychologists usually have two paths to choose from; to get employed by a public or federal institution, or to set up a private practice. Both of them are great because the final goal is helping the people in need. You can combine the two options if you want more working hours and a better salary at the end of the month.
The latter allows you to become your own boss and have all the benefits we mentioned above. You will, however, need to gain some experience in the field and prove yourself to be competent, so the clients can choose you, instead of any other expert in the very same field. It is for this reason that many private practitioners start out as public workers and then go on to set up their private practice after getting sufficient experience. Experienced forensics therapists are in high demand because many criminals decide to recover from the trauma and their past, and start a new life after they get out of jail, get a job, or even raise a family, and be successful in life.
3. Flexible Work Schedules
While criminal psychologists have to work long and odd hours at certain times, those who run their own practices have more control over their schedules. For example, you get to decide your opening and closing time and whether to take on a certain case or not. You could also choose to work from home from time to time. However, be prepared to work long hours, especially when starting out because you might have to work harder to make ends meet. Be ready to skip or miss some important events, because you will need to work even in the evenings. But, if you follow your cause, nothing will be complicated or too heavy for you and your professionalism.
4. A Great Job Outlook
Criminal psychology is one of the few fields where demand outstrips supply. Part of the reason for this is that this job requires a doctorate degree, and you really must know your profession, because many people will depend on you and your decisions. This means that aspiring candidates must, in addition to being able to handle stressful, sometimes disturbing situations, be fine with a lot of schools. If you have a thick enough skin and are fine with spending a lot of time in school, you’ll be delighted to know that criminal psychologists are projected to remain in high demand for a long time to come.
Go For It
Training New Zealand has a great guide on this subject. While becoming a criminal psychologist might not be easy, it can be very rewarding and satisfying. It is important, however, that you do some soul searching and find out whether you’re comfortable with crime scenes and have no problem working with law enforcement agencies. You might also not find the glamor that is portrayed on TV.
If you decide to take this step, you should be aware that you will meet different people and their stories every day. Some of them will be too traumatic and emotional to handle, and you must find a way to cope with it. Don’t get too emotional or attached to your clients, because you are there to help to overcome the trauma, and not to become a part of it. We all want to believe that our work will go smoothly, and we will have enough time for ourselves. But, psychology, as a science, won’t ever guarantee that, because it covers a lot of different aspects of your and your clients’ lives, and sometimes, even the best psychologist needs some help from the colleagues.