If you're looking to get a degree in psychology, you'll also want to pick a specific field. Since there are many options, it can feel overwhelming at first. However, two of the most popular options are forensic and clinical psychology.
While both are part of psychology, they are incredibly different. You'll want to know what exactly these differences are, so you can choose the field that will suit you the best. In this article, you'll find everything you need to know to make a choice!
Let's start by covering what these two branches of psychology are. Forensic psychology is the study of human behavior within the legal system. Forensic psychologists can work in government, law enforcement, correctional facilities, and courthouses.
Those in this field focus on the relationship between psychology and the criminal justice system. If you're more interested in this form of psychology, you'd also need to have an interest in the legal system.
Clinical psychology is different- it doesn't have to take place within a legal setting. The field focuses on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. These experts treat complex emotional, behavioral, and mental problems.
Essentially, clinical psychology is a broader form of forensic psychology. It can occur in any setting, although it's usually in a clinic, and those outside the legal system can use their services. Clinical psychologists interact with general patients, not necessarily inmates or parolees.
Now that you know the definition between these two types of psychology, you're likely wondering what the difference is between them. Both are branches of psychology, but clinical psychology takes place in a clinic. Forensic psychology has to happen within the legal system.
While both are a branch of psychology, they still don't have very many similarities. Here are all of the differences that you'll need to know about:
First of all, these two types of psychologists work with clients from different places. In Clinical Psychology, the client is likely an adult who is a general community member. They seek mental health diagnosis and treatment from the psychologist.
However, a forensic psychologist works with the court, attorneys, inmates, parolees, and law enforcement officers. These experts may evaluate criminal behavior and make reports to judges to help them determine how long a punishment should be.
A clinical psychologist gives assessment results directly to their clients. Forensic psychologists will not do that- they give their assessment results to law enforcement or the court. From there, the judicial system is the best course of action for the offender.
These two types of psychology also have varying purposes. The main goal of clinical psychology is to provide therapy as a treatment for mental health disorders. Clinical psychologists work directly with patients and give them the tools they need to improve their mental health.
However, forensic psychologists are there to assist the legal system. Their main goal is to provide victims or offenders with diagnosis and treatment, then make reports to the court. They also assess the mental state of their patients and present it.
Overall, clinical psychology is more private, suiting individuals. Instead, forensic psychology supplies the legal system with information to make a trial run smoothly and fairly.
Additionally, these two different fields require varying degrees. Clinical psychologists require a Master's degree or Ph.D. They also must become licensed in their state to provide treatment. Many of these professionals study under doctors and start as psychiatric technicians or experts in their community.
Forensic psychology requires you to follow a different path. Many positions need a Master's in forensic psychology and specialized training.
For example, if you want to become a victim advocate, you'd need ample training and experience within that field. A probation officer would have different training and expertise than a victim advocate. Because of this, you must have an idea early on of what career path you want to take within forensic psychology.
You'd also need to have a license in your state, although getting it would be a different process. In short, while both of these positions do require degrees, the education and experience you need to thrive in the field are very different from one another.
Finally, these two branches of psychology operate within different work environments. A clinical psychologist often works in a clinic. Although, you can also find them within businesses or schools. It's not uncommon for large companies to have them on call to help their employees.
The work environment for a forensic psychologist is very different. They most often work in jails, courthouses, and law firms. However, they may also work in some private settings or the government.
Forensic psychologists often make appearances in court. They testify as witnesses and present their analyses to help the judge and jury make informed legal decisions.
While both of these environments are very professional, they can feel highly different. Forensic psychology would suit you well if you don't mind working in a legal setting. You'll want to consider the place you prefer to work at!
Finally, the evaluation recommendations can come from different places. Clients who visit a clinical psychologist often receive requests for an evaluation from a therapist or other doctor. The assessment should benefit them with their mental health.
Those who receive recommendations for a forensic evaluation receive orders from attorneys, judges, or law enforcement for legal reasons. They may find themselves in trouble if they don't complete the assessment.
You'll want to consider if you wish to study and practice psychology in a clinical setting or if you'd instead do that in a legal environment. You should know before you start working on your education, but nothing stops you from switching at any time!
Many psychologists are very passionate about helping clients they work with- you'll want to be too!
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