Forensic Psychiatrist Career Facts

Forensic psychiatrists specialize in the interface between psychiatry and law. This is a particularly complex area of both medical and legal process. Forensic psychiatrists are required to be fully aware with the requirements of the legal process and are directly involved with legal processes. Their opinion, as a professional practitioner, is usually requested by a court in cases where the mental competence of people related to cases before the court is in question.

The Work Environment

The forensic psychiatrist is required to conduct extensive testing in the process of gathering information in relation to the affected person. This testing may include:

  • Direct interviews with the person in question: This is a primary testing process, to establish a working psychiatric.
  • Investigation of relevant events which assist in developing a psychiatric profile: A psychiatric history of issues is often a major part of assessing the psychiatric issues of the subject over time. It may establish behavioral patterns and give evidence of a pre-existing mental condition.  
  • Medical information regarding matters affecting the assessment: Types of medication, information provided by prescribing doctors regarding any relevant medical conditions, and dosages help define the nature of the subject's mental condition. 

Legal Situations

The cases for a forensic psychiatrist may include:

  • Testimony dealing with the "insanity defense": This defense is based on the fact that a person's mental state was the cause of an offense. The forensic psychiatrist is required to provide a professional opinion. This opinion may be challenged by the prosecution or defense, based on the findings of the forensic psychiatrist.
  • Assessment of mental disease or other mental conditions: As distinct from the "insanity defense" these medical conditions are relatively conditional. A person with clinical depression, for example, is affected by the condition, which is a different form of mental condition than the "insanity defense". A person may be held to have been temporarily mentally incompetent and unable to control their actions in a legally relevant situation. 
  • Competency to stand trial: Testimony may required by the court regarding competency of mentally unstable people to stand trial.
  • Competency of witnesses: The forensic psychiatrist may also be required to give testimony regarding people providing evidence to the court who have been severely traumatized, or suffer from a mental condition. In some cases the witness may be considered able to provide testimony under special conditions.

Wages and Hours

The wages earned are approximately $150,000 per year. The normal hours are typically professional hours, but includes court hearing times and time related to assessments. 

The Career Environment

Forensic psychiatry is a unique branch of psychiatry. It involves an unusual specialization which is not usually related to normal psychiatric practice. Career progression for forensic psychiatrists relates directly to this area of practice. Forensic psychiatrists may achieve considerable prominence as experts in their profession based on their work and academic case studies. Experts in this field are highly regarded by the legal profession. Advancement to post doctorate levels is one of the fundamental career progressions. For help with job placement, it's also possible to work with a psychiatry recruitment firm who can help you find the best fit for you.