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What is the Difference Between
Clinical & Forensic Psychology?


Psychology is a very broad science that deals with the mind and behaviour. It studies both the conscious and unconscious mind, and it’s able to really tap into a person’s feelings, and thoughts like no other discipline can achieve. The professionally trained people who practice this science are called psychologists, and they often range in specialty. For instance, you have comparative, cultural, biological, evolutionary, and all sorts of different sub-disciplines under the “psychology” banner. It’s such a massive field, in fact, that many people who may need to see a psychologist stop in their tracks because they can’t seem to figure out which type of psychologist handles which issues.

This is something we hope to clear up a little bit here. We understand that there is some confusion out there in regards to types of psych, like clinical and forensic psychology. On their faces, they seem confusing because they both deal with psychology. Though once you understand that psychology is just a large umbrella term, you begin to understand the many differences and nuances that separate the disciplines. So, let’s go over them in some detail here.

Clinical Psych

To give this discipline an abbreviated definition most can understand, clinical psychology is about providing an ongoing and deep mental health care practice for patients. The clinical practitioners will use a variety of psych theories and proven practices to treat diagnoses, and also to prevent them and to diagnose them. The main goal of a practitioner is to help train the individual to protect his or her mental health on their own, without the need for the psychologist.

The only way that a clinical psychologist is going to be offering their services and treating patients is to graduate with a degree, which has proven that they have expertise in the field. This isn’t anything that someone with an unrelated or unaffiliated education can get into. When a person sees a psychologist, they’re seeing a professional doctor, not just an employee at a clinic.

Forensic Psych

The sub-discipline of forensic psychology differs a bit and refers more to the criminal justice system. Though there are some very strong similarities here, most importantly, the fact that someone working in forensic psych is also a trained professional doctor. Though this practice deals much more with the field of law, social workers, lawyers, and others involved in the justice system.

Generally speaking, the forensic psychologist is going to be charged with making psychological diagnoses as they relate to criminal cases. A big part of the job here will be conducting mental health evaluations and making assessments about competency. They also work closely with investigators and are also trained in various aspects of the legal system.

How the Two Differ

After explaining the differences between the two sub-disciplines of psychology, there’s really no need for a long-winded explanation as to how they differ. It’s fairly simplistic and obvious, at least insofar as you can see the differences. Clinical psychology is that more traditional practice you will think about, when it comes to patients entering a facility or office and being treated. On the forensic side of the aisle, you would not be dealing with this sort of psychologist as a basic citizen. Unless you were going through the legal system for some reason, you would strictly be dealing with a clinical psychologist, at least insofar as those are the two options.


Which Option You Should Choose

In terms of which option you should choose: Again, it really comes down to how these sub-disciplines are defined. If you’re an average person who’s not currently involved in any sort of legal trials or in court, you’re not going to be able to access to a forensic psychologist to begin with. Your only option here is going to be clinical psych. Which, in all honesty, is a great thing! If you have to see a forensic psychologist, then the odds are that there’s not anything good going to come from it, and your back is really up against the wall here.

People get these sorts of psychology terms confused a lot, but as you can see, it’s pretty self-explanatory. If you would like to see a psychologist, then there is a qualified clinical psych professional near you.

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