Criminal psychology, most commonly known as forensic psychology, involves the application of science and the profession of psychology to questions and issues pertaining to law and the legal system. Typically, when one refers to criminal psychology, they are referring to the application of the principles and practices of clinical psychology to the offender population. Criminal psychologists, most commonly known as clinical forensic psychologists, are engaged in the study or and delivery of psychological services to individuals who have some into contact with the criminal justice system and who require psychological services in the form of evaluation or treatment. Clinical forensic psychologists work in a variety of settings including independent practice, correctional facilities, secure and community mental health facilities, forensic and state hospitals, as well as educational, research, and policy institutions.

Types of mental disorders

Criminal psychologists (clinical forensic psychologists) work with individuals who are involved with the criminal justice system and who have a broad array of mental disorders, including but not limited to, personality disorders (antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder), psychopathy, developmental disorders, mood disor

ders (depression, bipolar disorder), sexual disorders, psychotic disorders (schizophrenia, delusional disorder) and the very common substance use disorders (more than 75% of the prison and jail population have or have had a substance use disorder).


Clinical forensic psychologists may be involved in the evaluation of criminal offenders before or during trial (competency to stand trial, mental state at the time of offense), at the time of sentencing (pre-sentence evaluations), upon admission to a correctional facility (institution risk assessment, placement evaluation), during an offenders period of incarceration (treatment evaluations), upon release from a correctional facility (parole board evaluations, risk assessments), as well as after release (ongoing risk assessments).


Treatment of criminal offenders usually begins upon arrest or conviction and may include individual treatment, group treatment, or both and may continue until well after release from a correctional facility. Treatment may be provided in a private practice setting, a community mental health center, a halfway house or other residential facility, as well as correctional and probation offices and institutions among other settings. Interventions are typically aimed at attempting to rehabilitate offenders in the specific areas where they may have functional deficits, such as mental health issues, substance use problems, relapse prevention, social skills training, or any host of other problems or issues.

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