Differences Between Therapeutic Psychology and Forensic Psychology
When it comes to mental health, it is incredibly important to make sure one finds the best suited mental health professional possible in order to increase one’s chances of a desired outcome. Most people find themselves visiting a mental health professional for one of two reasons. They either take it upon themselves to seek out treatment in order to improve their mental health or situation, or they have been mandated by a court or a place of employment to seek an evaluation. The differences in these psychology practices can be found here.
Mental health professionals usually specialize in different areas of practice. Regardless of purpose, it is important for a client to understand the major differences between these two specialties within the psychiatric realm. The fundamental difference between the roles of therapeutic psychologists and forensic psychologist, is whether the client is pursuing voluntary treatment vs. involuntary assessment. This article will further explore the major differences between forensic and therapeutic psychology.
Reasons for Therapy
A therapeutic psychologist is much more open to a client establishing and modifying their treatment goals. A psychologist who specializes in this field will usually be sought out by a client when they have perhaps experienced difficult circumstances or significant hardships in their life, and they would like to address these issues in order to develop appropriate coping mechanisms for the situation at hand.
The main purpose of a forensic psychologist, is to ascertain whether the individual is of sound mind to stand trial or, in the case of employment, return to duty. A forensic psychologist is not hired in order to assist an individual in improving their psychological well-being. Rather, a forensic psychologist’s role is focused on the legalities, rather than dispensing therapeutic advice.
For example, a law enforcement officer who has been involved in a particularly stressful incident while on duty may be mandated by his department to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before he is allowed to return to regular duty status. Another example, could be a criminal defendant, who’s mental capacity may be called into question. One of the deciding factors in whether they would be deemed “criminally insane,” or fit to stand trial, would be the outcome of a mandated forensic psychiatric evaluation.
A common myth is that all psychologists are held to the same standard of confidentiality, however this is not the case when it comes to forensic psychologists. While psychologists who specialize in therapeutic psychology are held to a high standard of confidentiality (with the exception of imminent threat or harm being posed to the client or others), forensic psychologists are usually required to report their findings to the court, or agency, which mandated the screening.
Once again, the important thing to keep in mind is whether that client is seeking out voluntary treatment vs. involuntary assessment. With an involuntary psychological evaluation, one should always assume that the results of the screening, or interview, will likely be discussed with an outside agency, in order to determine the next best course of action.
Both therapeutic psychologists and forensic psychologists play a vital role in society. Being able to identify and distinguish between the functions of therapeutic and forensic psychology is crucial in order to identify the right specialist for the job.
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