Forensic psychiatrists are expected to be trained in the field of medicine whilst also possessing some knowledge of legal issues and basic investigation techniques. It is a job associated with a certain amount of danger, due to exposure to interaction with patients who may pose significant physical or emotional threat. So what exactly does a forensic psychiatrist do that makes his or her job so specialised?
Well, forensic psychiatrists are employed essentially to detect the cause of criminal tendencies in a person, or, to investigate a particular reason as to why a specific crime was committed and the effect it has on the perpetrator or the victim. They are the link between law and science; in addition to interaction with criminals, they have repeated contact with lawyers and judges. There is, however, a distinction between a forensic psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist. Psychologists simply research and interview, whilst psychiatrists are licensed to diagnose conditions and prescribe medication for those affected.
A thick skin is a necessity for anyone who wishes to be involved in this field. One must be determined in nature in order to complete the qualifications required for the job, while the nature of the job itself can be emotionally and physically draining. One will often have contact with the most dangerous members of society - rapists, murderers, etc - so one must be prepared mentally for this challenge. In addition to this, complete impartiality and an ability to avoid emotional entanglement in the job are requirements for this career.
Forensic psychiatrists will work closely with lawyers or law enforcement officers in order to provide opinions or statements on the mental health of victims or offenders. They may be required to testify for or against an individual. Some may work in prisons or detention centres. Many forensic psychiatrists may also have assistant nurses. Forensic psychiatrist nurses look to assist the psychiatrist in a variety of ways, such as gathering evidence or administering patient care.
Forensic psychiatrists may also be required to provide occupational therapy. They will look to help the patient learn positive life skills whilst simultaneously attempting to reduce negative tendencies where possible. In this manner, the forensic psychiatrist or occupational therapist will try to provide the patient with a motivation to lead a "normal" life.
Many forensic psychiatrists often choose careers as social workers. Often as part of a team, they will provide therapy to those in need; they will try to understand a case study of the patient before looking to decide on a method of treatment. In addition, they may try to help the patient lead a normal life by assisting in the finding of accommodation or jobs.
Forensic Psychiatry can be a well paid job for those willing to make the effort. Higher levels of expertise will lead to higher pay, but in general, forensic psychiatrists will earn between $40,000 and $70,000 per year.