Introduction to Forensic Psychology By Bruce A. Arrigo :: Forensic psychology is a popular field. Its allure, in part fueled by sensationalized and glamorized media images, features psychologists tracking down serial killers, treating sexual psychopaths, and studying the criminal mind. Indeed, as a teacher, I see many of my students expressing considerable enthusiasm for careers as “profilers” engaged in the behavioral science pursuit of crime scene analyses. While there is certainly a need for trained specialists in this domain of forensics, the field itself is considerably more vast.
The expanse of the field is rooted in its sundry models of instruction and practice. Clinical practitioners emphasize the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of different civil and criminal forensic populations. Law psychology practitioners emphasize the development of the legally trained specialist whose overlapping skills in courtroom processes and human behavior make for a formidable expert in the treatment and policy arenas.
Law—psychology—justice practitioners emphasize the development of a cross-trained specialist whose integrative knowledge base in psychology, criminology, organizational analysis, policy studies, and law readies the person for the increasing demands of a multifaceted profession. If appropriately prepared, this specialist moves skillfully among those in the psychotherapeutic, management, and advocacy communities.
Clearly, each of these models includes a unique set of strengths and limitations. What each of these approaches shares, however, is that its collective vision of forensic psychology is not so narrowly defined or so unidimensionally depicted as is the impression created for us by the popular media. Much of what forensic experts do is not stylish or seductive. Indeed, if anything, much of the work is often tedious and technical. This is not the same as suggesting that the contributions of forensic psychologists are insignificant or trivial to society. Nothing could be further from the truth.