Forensic Psychology is the practice and application of psychological research relevant to crime, policing, the courts, the criminal and civil justice system, offenders, prison, secure settings, offender management, health and academic settings as well as private practice.
It looks at the role of environmental, psychosocial, and socio-cultural factors that may contribute to crime or its prevention. The primary aim of Forensic Psychology as an academic discipline is to develop understanding of the processes underlying criminal behaviour and for this improved understanding to impact on the effective management and rehabilitation of different groups of offenders in all settings within the criminal justice system.
The first aim of the programme is to provide students with a thorough and critical academic grounding in the evidence relating to environmental, cultural, cognitive and biological factors that may contribute to a wide variety of forms of offending. The programme will encourage students to consider the role and limitations of causal explanations for offending in the development of offender treatments, services and policy.
The second aim of the programme is to introduce students to the basic professional competencies for working in the many settings where forensic psychology is practiced, including skills related to inter-disciplinary working, risk assessment, ethics, continuing professional development, report writing and differences in practice when working with offenders, victims, the courts and the police.
The programme aims to produce Masters degree graduates with the ability to understand the limitations of the conceptual underpinnings of interventions and assessments used in forensic psychology and who are able therefore to engage in critical evaluation of the evidence base upon which their own practice will eventually be based. Because the programme will specifically avoid providing any formal supervised practice, its aim is to produce reflective scientist-practitioners who will be ready to engage with the final element (stage 2) of the training requirements for becoming a Chartered Psychologist in the practice of Forensic Psychology.
Students will complete the following taught modules and will also be required to conduct a novel, supervised research dissertation with participants preferably drawn from a forensic setting:
Research Methods and Design (30 credits)
The aim of this module is to extend students knowledge and experience of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Topics covered include: randomised control trials, ANOVA, ANCOVA, MANOVA, Power analysis, Regression, Non parametric methods, interviews, discourse analysis, grounded theory, reflective analysis and psychometric evaluation.
Forensic Mental Health (20 credits)
This module aims to provide students with a critical examination of the relationship between mental illness, personality disorder, learning disability and criminal behaviour. The module will encourage students to view the mental health needs of offenders in the broadest possible context and to appreciate the inter-disciplinary nature of services available to mentally disordered offenders, difficulties in accessing those services and problems for custodial adjustment presented by specific psychiatric diagnoses
Professional Practice and Offender Management (20 credits)
The focus of this module is the professional practice of forensic psychology. The module builds on the groundwork laid by earlier modules and covers professional skills and the types of interventions that a practicing forensic psychologist may engage in. The topics covered by this module include ethics, report writing, working with other agencies, and working with offenders and victims.
Psychological Assessments and Interventions (20 credits)
This module covers psychology as it may be applied to the reduction of re-offending by convicted criminals. The central focus of the module is the ‘what works’ literature. A range of topics will be covered demonstrating the broad application of psychology to offender rehabilitation in the Criminal Justice System, and within Wales particularly. These topics include: (1) assessment of risk and treatment need; (2) factors affecting response to treatment; (3) ethical issues of compulsory treatment; and (4) interventions for a range of offending behaviours.
Theories of Criminal Behaviour (10 credits)
The module aims to examine the contribution made by biological, psychodynamic, evolutionary, cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives to our understanding of the aetiology of criminal behaviour. It will explore psychological theories of a variety of offending behaviours such as: violence, aggression, domestic abuse, sex offending, vehicle crime, fire setting as well as gangs and gangs membership.
Legal Psychology (10 credits)
This module covers psychology as it may be applied to the law, and the central focus of the module is evidence. A range of topics will be covered, demonstrating the broad application of psychology within the legal system. These topics include the interviewing of suspects and witnesses, vulnerable victims, offender profiling and the detection of deception.
Psychological Vulnerabilities (10 credits)
This module informs students about different factors that may contribute to psychological vulnerability in offenders and victims. A variety of topics will be covered, including issues around the concept of vulnerability and the protection of vulnerable adults, including factors which may increase a prisoner’s vulnerability (e.g. youth, learning disability, older prisoners, and women).