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Psychology and Law

Psychology and the Law is a frontier area in two ways. It is a relatively recent specialty, and it is an interdisciplinary area, an area of overlap between psychology and other professions. Here are some specific ways that psychol­ogists are involved in the legal system.

–In law enforcement (evaluating evidence, constructing profiles of criminals not yet caught, rehabil­itating prisoners)

–As consultants to lawyers (helping them select jury members or prepar­ing a witness to testify)

–Providing expert testimony (eval­uating eyewitness testimony, giving information about patterns of abuse and victimization, or testifying on topics such as sleep disorders, child abuse, and dating violence)

–Advocating rights of clients (arguing for the rights of the devel­opmentally disabled or handicap­ped, rape victims, parents seeking custody)

Regulating the profession of psychology (defining boundaries of accepting behavior in therapy, protecting rights of therapy clients, regulating research with human subjects, setting up guidelines for animal laboratories)

How are psychologists involved in the legal system?

Programs in forensic psychology, or psychology and law, started appearing becoming more common in the 1990s. By the end of the millenium, there were perhaps a dozen.

Now there are at least three times that many programs available on the grad­uate level. That means this specialty is at the same level of popularity as many others in psychology.

Job opportunities have not kept up with the numbers of new degree holders. More people hold degrees in the field than there are jobs to fill.

However, that is not uncommon in psychology. Perhaps it is inevitable in fields that are popular with students.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.


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