Defense lawyer with client in court

The discipline of criminal psychology fuses psychology and the criminal justice system. It’s a relatively new field, just getting recognized by the APA in 2001. Criminal psychologists are trained in human behavior, and they work closely with attorneys, courts, law enforcement agencies, and various other stakeholders in civil and criminal cases.

Psychologists have been providing advice to courts for decades. During the trial phase, criminal psychologists may serve as experts for the defendant or victims, or they may attempt to rehabilitate convicted offenders after serving their sentences.

Due to their roles in crime dramas, criminal psychologists may be the most frequently recognized type of psychologist among the general public. Almost every week, Americans observe a professional testify in court about a defendant’s mental health, state of mind, and likelihood of committing a crime.

The justice system depends heavily on criminal psychology. Criminal psychologists examine the mental health of criminal suspects and proven criminals to determine their guilt or innocence, and many testify at trials about patients’ mental health. They are specialized psychologists with backgrounds in both criminology and psychology. They are experts in criminals’ mental states and behavior.

Anyone who loves to solve mysteries or is a fan of crime novels is perfect for pursuing a career as a criminal therapist. To succeed as a criminal therapist, one has to be interested in criminal psychology or be intrigued by psychopaths.

Who is a Criminal Psychologist?

The field of criminal psychology, also commonly known as forensic psychology, combines psychological research and criminal justice practices. Criminal psychologists assist law enforcement agencies, courts, and other institutions, offering expert analysis in various fields. A criminal psychologist’s tasks are evaluating behavior, conducting research, and writing reports.

A criminal psychologist may evaluate criminal offenders’ thoughts and behaviors and determine whether they can stand trial or testify about what the defendant thought when he committed the crime during the trial. Additionally, criminal psychologists can help victims of crimes cope with the trauma they have experienced. Some criminal psychologists also assist convicted offenders in rehabilitating themselves to reenter society once they have served their sentences.

With this being said, if you’re interested in pursuing your career as a criminal psychologist, then you should consider the following traits that are a prerequisite to being a criminal psychologist.

Ability to Think Critically

Psychological concepts, public policy, counseling, and the legal system are all incorporated into criminal psychology. Considering that this field is interdisciplinary, it is vital to have strong critical thinking abilities.

Critical thinking is the cornerstone of this process, from analyzing data to observing others to making time-sensitive, informed decisions such as when should an inmate be released? What evidence is credible?


Objectivity and this trait may seem incompatible. However, an excellent criminal psychologist demonstrates concern for the people they work with. Working as a criminal psychological specialist involves balancing professional needs with human needs that require care and attention. It’s essential to keep your emotions in check and ensure that you are doing your job effectively, such as making sure victims’ voices are heard.

Ultimately, criminal psychology combines psychology and justice. Compassion is essential in this field because it brings a human element to a government system.

A Keen Observer

Perceptive observations and analysis are crucial in forensic psychology. An excellent way to read body language is to become aware of different communication styles.

You’re often responsible for crisis management and counseling inmates if you work in corrections. You can avoid conflict by understanding body language and using conflict resolution strategies.

Additionally, if you are working with witnesses and juries, evaluating group dynamics and understanding body language allows you to make effective recommendations regarding jury selection.

Ability To Remain Objective

Criminal psychology can be challenging and emotional as a field dealing with law and crime. A psychologist’s ability to separate themselves from these difficult moments with their clients is crucial to their ability to deliver their services successfully.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re dealing with victims, criminals, lawyers, or anyone else. Psychologists must maintain these relationships professionally and honor their clients’ needs without forming emotional attachments or personal reactions.

Ability To Communicate Effectively

Anyone working in criminal psychology needs to have good communication skills no matter what position they hold. Occupational teams, such as victim advocates, corrections counselors, and jury advisors, frequently deal with people daily.

Further, your career may involve regular communication with inmates, crime victims, lawyers, and judges. Therefore, you should possess excellent listening and speaking skills.

Furthermore, you should be able to adjust your communication style based on the circumstances. An anger management seminar in a corrections facility should be approached differently than interviewing a sexual assault victim.

Besides giving testimony in court, the criminal psychologist may have to present research findings in academic settings.

Criminal Psychology and the Legal System

A criminal psychologist is a key player in the legal system. Even though psychologists provide a variety of services, their duties tend to fall into four categories:


Once an individual has been apprehended, the criminal psychologist can conduct a clinical evaluation to determine the criminal’s mental state, their ability to stand trial, whether the individual has a mental illness, and if they are capable of understanding what is happening. To construct these assessments, the psychologist uses a variety of tests, tools, and interviewing techniques.


In simple experiments, a clinical psychologist can determine whether a suspect is capable of committing the crime for which the suspect is accused. A psychologist may, for example, perform tests to assess whether a witness witnessed or heard what was allegedly said in the statement.


Statistics can yield reliable information when applied to large groups. In criminal psychology, researchers conduct research and then use statistical evidence to inform a case by estimating the likelihood of a particular occurrence or determining whether a criminal will re-offend, known as recidivism.


A criminal psychologist may be called in as a consultant by law enforcement agencies or legal teams in ambiguous situations. Depending on the situation, psychologists may assist in determining the right person to interview, when and how to interview the people, or how to persuade reluctant individuals – such as victims – to talk. Additionally, they can anticipate how the suspect will behave during the investigation and provide advice on treating them.

Final Words

Criminal psychology is an interesting field perfect for anyone who likes looking at things from a different perspective. So, if you think you have what it takes to be a criminal psychologist, do give it a try.