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What is a Forensic Psychiatrist

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What Is A Forensic Psychiatrist? (Your Guide To Forensic Psychiatry)

Forensic Psychiatry is a branch of psychiatry dealing with the assessment and treatment of offenders in prisons, secure hospitals and the community with mental health problems. To succeed in this field, you need a deep understanding of the links between the law and its correlation to mental health.

Forensic Psychiatrists

You need to have the ability to balance the needs of people by assessing them or treating them, with the risk they present to themselves and others. Those who are at risk may include the person’s own family, or relatives, health service staff, criminal justice staff, or the public.

A forensic psychiatrist most commonly delivers their services in a secure hospital environment. They may also perform their job in other facilities such as a community service organization or a prison.

Keeping up-to-date with relevant legislation and criminal, case, and civil law is central to the work which means you may need to work with criminal justice agencies and the courts in many cases. The majority of patients have had previous health service assessment and treatment, in a lot of cases they have also been involved with the criminal justice system in the past. In the majority of cases, the patients are referred from the criminal justice system but other health service facilities are an important source of referral when a patient is perceived as posing a risk to patients or other staff, which cannot be managed safely in a less secure environment.


You’ll need the distinct skills to assess the risk of harm to others as well as the patient themselves as this is really pertinent to your work. The task is only marked as finished when a result-based management strategy has been documented, even when the strategy is an argued case for disavowing risk. It’s not just up to you as the forensic psychiatrist to assess risk however, there is an entire forensic mental health team that has input in this process.

As a forensic psychiatrist you’ll also provide specialist advice to the courts, the probation service, the prison service, and other people who work in the field of psychology.

Common Ways Forensic Psychiatrists Work

Working In The Court

In many cases, forensic psychiatrists provide expert witness evidence to courts at all levels in the process. Psychiatrists in other specialties may also have sufficient training to do this, but, in many cases they are the back up plan for higher courts for more serious criminal cases. Areas of expertise required for this are typically as follows:

  • Level of security required to treat a patient and manage risk
  • Prognosis and availability of ‘appropriate treatment’
  • Nature of a particular mental disorder and link to future risks
  • Appropriateness of a mental health disposal at the time of sentencing
  • Appropriateness and circumstances required for an individual’s admission to hospital for assessment
  • Advice to the courts on the available psychiatric defenses
  • Capacity to form intent
  • Defendant’s fitness to plead and fitness to stand trial

Working As A Forensic Psychiatry Consultant

In many cases you’ll be advising colleagues in the care of patients deemed to be a risk to others, forensic psychiatrists will need to be competent to provide a detailed assessment including advice on:

  • Risk of harm to others, this includes the use of professional risk assessment and judgment tools
  • Risk Management
  • Security from a therapeutic perspective
  • Psychodynamic formulation of the case, including strategy
  • Risk of harm to other people, including the use of risk assessment or professional judgment tools


By doing forensic psychiatry consulting work, you’ll provide opportunities to assess and work with mentally disordered offenders in facilities run by prisons, probationary, and third sector organizations. Ethical issues such as information sharing are different than those in clinical practices. You will need the skills such as knowledge of when and what confidential information must be shared with others in particular circumstances. Having the confidence in doing so will help you to reach the top.

You’ll need to understand governance procedures, attend meetings and investigate claims and serious incidents within a team setting. You must also participate in a regular audit within and outside the specialty to improve the service you provide as a forensic psychiatrist.

Super-specialties of Forensic Psychiatry

People often have needs relevant to multiple facets of the psychiatry spectrum. There are three combinations that help to separate and treat people the correct way:

  • Forensic psychotherapy
  • Forensic learning disability psychiatry
  • Adolescent forensic psychiatry

Are you looking to get into forensic psychiatry or just your next gig in general? Healthcare Consultant is the best free healthcare job board out there, check us out today. We hope you learned what you need to know about becoming a forensic psychiatrist in this article, get out there and make dreams come true.

What is a Forensic Psychiatrist
Jake Tilk

Jake is the Digital Marketing Manager for OptyConnect and Healthcare Consultant. He holds a B.B.A. in Marketing with a minor in Business from Western Michigan University and has a certification in Software Development.