What Does A Forensic Psychiatrist Do?
Forensic psychiatry is both a sub-field of psychiatry and a sub-field of forensics/criminology.
As such the forensic psychiatrist needs to not only go through all the necessary study, training and certification to become a psychiatrist, they also need to understand their role within the confines of the legal and criminal justice systems.
But if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to the many years of study and training that’s required, you can find yourself in a job that pays extremely well and gives you interesting cases to deal with on a regular basis.
Forensic Psychiatry Job Description
The bulk of the work done by forensic psychiatrists is the same as would be done by psychiatrists in general.
They provide diagnostic assessments about the mental state of people, and then make determinations about the sort of treatments those people should be using in order to overcome their problems.
But the difference between the forensic psychiatrist and other professionals in this field, is that these determinations are then used by the courts to make decisions about such things as fitness to stand trial and the validity of an insanity plea.
The two main tasks of the forensic psychiatrist are:
Fit To Stand Trial
Forensic psychiatrists will be called upon to evaluate a person in order to determine their mental state ahead of a trial where charges are being brought against them.
If the forensic psychiatrist finds that the defendant cannot fully grasp the charges that they’re facing and/or they’re not in any state to provide their attorney with assistance throughout the trial, then that trial cannot go ahead.
This judgement is based on the interpretation of the fifth amendment allowing you to be present at your trial, face any accusers and help your attorney in the defense of against those charges.
Mental State When Crime Was Committed
The second key job of the forensic psychiatrist is to try and determine what the mental state of the accused was at the time they committed the crime, and whether or not they were aware that the act they were carrying out was a crime.
A common example of this is the insanity plea. A psychiatrist (often on both sides of the case) will provide testimony about what they think was the mental state of the person when they carried out the crime.
This will then impact upon the charges they will face as well as their sentencing.
How Do You Become A Forensic Psychiatrist?
Becoming a psychiatrist involves firstly going to medical school and earning your MD or D.O.
From there you would need to specialize in psychiatry by completing a residency in this field.
And finally once you have completed your residency and received your accreditation you will typically go on to complete a one year fellowship in forensic psychiatry.
All up this is a great deal of study and training – close to a decade in fact.
Forensic Psychiatrists Salary
In general, forensic psychiatry salary expectations are quite high. A forensic psychiatrist is a medically trained physician so straight away they can expect much higher than average earnings.
Then, like any medically trained professional who is a specialist, this salary goes higher again because they have specialized in their chosen field of psychiatry.
Forensic Psychiatry Careers
Career growth for forensic psychiatry is quite stable.
The intensive training and education requirements make it a job that is always going to have strong demand for experienced professionals.