How to Become a Forensic Psychiatrist – Careers and Degrees

If you are interested in becoming a forensic psychiatrist then be prepared to participate in criminal cases, civil cases, and examine the psychology and mental state of patients. You will specialize in mental health and your skills will need to be applied towards legal applications.

Forensic psychiatrists are required to become educated in law as a result. Their skillsets will be applied to the following types of legal issues:

  • Custody Issues
  • Involuntary Commitment
  • Determining the Mental Competence of a Defendant or Witness
  • Helping Patients Correct Their Mental Disorders

The duties associated with becoming a forensic psychiatrist will range depending on the types of cases and legal proceedings occurring. In certain cases, you’ll be responsible for conducting legal-related research.

Forensic psychiatrists can specialize in criminal cases, civil cases, or both. You will be responsible for collaborating with social workers, psychologists, and other professionals to discuss potential treatment plans for patients.

Duties and Responsibilities

As a forensic psychiatrist, you will need to maintain important records which include the medical history of a patient as their social history. In most cases, you will be responsible for prescribing, directing, or administering treatments to help resolve mental or emotional disorders.

Individual patient care will be required frequently and forensic psychiatrists will need to develop individualized treatment plans for them. Here are few more of their duties:

  • Speak with relatives or guardians of a patient and discuss their conditions as well as treatment options.
  • Teaching relevant classes, attend seminars, and conduct research on mental disorders and publish important findings.
  • Evaluate patient data so that you can better diagnose the severity of their mental disorder.
  • Examine a patient’s history and run diagnostic tests to better understand why they are behaving in a certain manner.

You may also be required to evaluate the outcomes of your research and collaborate with other professionals about what you’ve come across. If you are evaluating information for criminal cases then you’ll need to prepare this information and present it in court to the district attorney.

Educational Requirements

Like the majority of psychiatrists, becoming a forensic psychiatrists does require a substantial amount of training and education. The first step towards acquiring such a position is to attend medical school. You will need to follow up by participating in a residency in psychiatry. In order to become a certified forensic psychiatrist, you will need to learn about law and participate in a fellowship.

Joining a professional organization like “AAPL” will be required and will provide you with an additional amount of education needed for the position. Fellowships for forensic psychiatry are only offered by accredited medical institutions across the United States. They will require you to attend them full-time for 1 full year. The topics covered in fellowship programs will include ethics, research, treatment options, and diagnosing. Basic law courses will also be a part of the curriculum.

Salary and Position Advantages

An in-demand forensic psychiatrist may earn $500 per hour. However, this number will change drastically depending on their client history, level of expertise, and experience. While it’s a challenging position, it can also be an interesting one.

Forensic psychiatrists collaborate with highly trained psychologists and law experts on a regular basis to discuss patient competence and ways to treat specific mental disorders. There are few positions within the industry that allow you to work both within the law and medical field. As a forensic psychiatrist, you will be considered a certified doctor.

Work Environment

Working in this field can be very demanding. You will be expected to work long hours and you will often spend your days behind a desk. Stacks of papers, pens, and laptops are used and referred to regularly as a forensic psychiatrist. You will be responsible for determining the competency of a patient. This will help the judge determine the mental aptitude of the patient.

You will need to determine if they are “fit” to stand in trial. Because of this, you’ll also need to understand the very basic foundations of law. Other court work could include providing advice for the courts in regards to the patient’s ability to defend themselves. A forensic psychiatrist will need to determine the mental health of a patient before they are sentenced.

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