Forensic psychiatry

Specialty of Psychiatry

What is forensic psychiatry?

Forensic psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry which helps mentally disordered people who are a risk to the public. Offenders in prisons, secure hospitals and members of the community with mental disorders are assessed and treated. The specialty also investigates the correlation between mental disorder and criminal behaviours and works with criminal justice agencies. Forensic psychiatrists work alongside the police, probation service, courts and prisons.

What is a forensic psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has completed additional training in understanding the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. A forensic psychiatrist has additional training and experience in mental health alongside the law.

Where do forensic psychiatrists work?

Most forensic psychiatrists work in the following:

  • Local community forensic psychiatry services
  • Medium secure units
  • Hospitals
  • Prisons

What do forensic psychiatrists do?

A forensic psychiatrist’s role includes covering clinical, managerial and teaching areas. They lead strong multidisciplinary teams and work in medium and high secure hospitals. The specific duty of a forensic psychiatrist includes:

  • Risk assessment
  • Helping patients to understand their risk
  • Helping patients to reduce their risk
  • Helping patients to understand their mental illness
  • Addressing anger control, stress, employability and substance misuse
  • Rehabilitation back into society
  • Offering support to family and friends
  • Strong connection with criminal justice agencies

What’s the difference between a forensic psychiatrist and a forensic psychologist?

Psychiatrists are doctors with specialty training in mental disorders and who have a degree in medicine. Psychologists do not go to medical school but hold a degree in psychology. They have special expertise in topics not usually studied in detail by psychiatrists. Psychology involves the study of mental processes and behaviour. The following are some of the areas of work that forensic psychiatrists are more involved in than the forensic psychologists:

  • Leading patient care teams
  • Prescribing medication
  • Representing patients at tribunals
  • Assessment of patients for court appearances
  • Holding risk assessments on mentally disordered people within communities
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