Many people wonder what the difference is between a forensic psychiatrist and a forensic psychologist. Psychiatrists are physicians who have received extensive training in the areas of mental disorders, their diagnosis and their treatment. Like other kinds of physicians, they can perform laboratory tests and prescribe medications for treatment, provide psychotherapy and provide therapy to individuals, couples or entire families. Psychologists, on the other hand, have no medical training, but have training and expertise in related important topics such as statistical analysis and psychological testing.
It is not unusual for lawyers or judges to turn to professionals in the field of psychiatry and psychology when the cases they are involved in are outside the realm of general law but turn on matters of human behavior. Forensic expert witness testimony is typically provided by only those who are very knowledgeable in their area of specialty. While many people have the idea that a forensic professional is one who works on major crimes (such as a forensic pathologist or coroner), it can actually refer to anything related to the law.
Either forensic psychiatrists or psychologists may work in a variety of situations, such as child custody evaluations or assessments to determine capacities of mentally ill people who are charged with a crime, providing judges or lawyers with information on the psychological implications of a case, and much more. Forensic psychiatrists are called on to provide information related to the use of psychiatric medicine or to perform psychiatric evaluations. Forensic psychologists are also experts on the study of human behavior as well as psychological testing and can offer their opinion in a court of law. While neither of the professionals are lawyers, they often work closely with lawyers to provide the information about psychiatry that they are not familiar with. There are 32 fellowships on law and psychiatry offered at various medical schools across the united states. Completing a one-year fellowship in forensic psychiatry is a pre-requisite to taking the examination for certification in forensic psychiatry offered by American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology. The American Board of Professional Psychology also offers psychologists board certification in forensic psychology.