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What is the Difference Between Clinical
and Forensic Psychologists?

clinical psychologist

Psychology is considered a social science in many regards. It doesn't really deal with hard empirical matter and microscopes and such like you would find necessarily with chemistry and biology. That being said, psychology is still considered one of the top scientific disciplines on the planet. It is certainly one of the most rigorous disciplines, to be clear, and people who end up becoming psychologists have many years of school, multiple degrees, and a lot of training. Psychology is all about the science of the mind and behaviour. As anyone can attest, people are inherently complex, and thus being able to figure out what's going on in people's minds takes some true research, work and talent.

However, the discipline of psychology isn't some one size fits all coat to wear. There are many different sub-fields under the banner of psych. For instance, you have biopsychology, behavioural psychology, abnormal psychology, and the two we will be discussing here, clinical and forensic psychology. A clinical psychologist and a forensic psychologist might both be practicing under the principles of psychology as a science, but their duties and training are different in many respects. Let's have a closer look at this topic.

What a Psychologist Does

In a general sense, a psychologist is a trained, lettered, certified individual who studies the mental processes of people and human behaviour. They do this by observing these individuals, often their patients or clients (nomenclature varies), and studying various aspects while looking for principles of cause and effect, seeking out triggers, stress responses, and more. The psychologist is attempting to understand and map out behavioural patterns, often offering advice and solutions to help the individual lead a better life free from mental stresses and worries.

Psychologists practice differently along the spectrum. Some are individual practitioners, while others will work at a practice or a clinic, and some still will just go on to teach psych as professors at a university. A psychologist's path may also differ depending on the type of psychology they practice.

forensic psychologist

Forensic Psychologists' Duties

A forensic psychologist is most often associated with the criminal justice system of a nation, territory, province, etc. They are still a highly trained master at their craft, though they lend their talents to help within the justice system to work alongside lawyers and prosecutors, social workers, and often those accused and/or convicted of crimes.

As one might imagine, the mental psyches of those charged and convicted of crimes differ greatly from the general population. The forensic practitioner is dealing with people who are a lot more stressed and have exponentially more mental issues at times. Performing mental health evaluations on suspects and criminals is a big part of the job here, so the forensic practitioner is often looking at deeper depths of issues and suffering.

Clinical Psychologists' Duties

The clinical psychologist is a lot more in line with what people know colloquially as a shrink, a therapist. This individual is offering help to patients by observing them in a calm, stress-free setting that involves a lot of talking and dredging up past events. The psychologist here is looking for different causes for the current effects while also seeking out potential triggers and looking for different ways by which the patient can mentally cope with the traumas with which they are living.

Clinical practitioners are attempting to train the individual, so to speak, so that he or she can recognize their own mentality and make adjustments on the fly to avoid things like stress, depression, panic attacks, fits of rage, etc. The clinical practitioner is studying the individual for the purpose of teaching the individual about him or herself so that they might cope with their own life in a better way.

Finding the Right Psychologist

Whether you are part of the justice system and are reaching out for a professional to assist you, or if you're just an individual trying to cope with stress, the good news is that you can find a qualified psychologist to offer assistance.

Just remember to go with a local name you can trust when it comes to yourself and others' mental health.


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