A Day in the life of a Forensic Psychologist

A day in the life of...

I am a Forensic Psychologist and I work in private practice, with a team of psychologists across the country. We deliver training, provide assessment and psychological treatment, and consultancy to organisations.

No day is the same, which is an aspect of the job that I love! Some days I will be out at prisons or hospitals assessing clients, and other days I might be in a Court hearing, or working at my desk report writing.

Today I had a lot on my ‘to do’ list including emails and organising meetings. I was able to do a lot of this on the way to my assessment at a prison in the morning, as I travelled by train so that I could work on the way. I was on the 7am train so had plenty of time to do this.

My assessment session in the morning was for a Court report. I had been asked to assess the intellectual functioning, suggestibility, and personality of an adult male who had been remanded into custody whilst awaiting trial for a serious violent offence.  I went along prepared with the psychometric tests needed, and the patient attended the legal visits area to see me. The visits areas in prisons are often very cold and in this case, it seemed colder in the prison than it was outside! I had around two and a half hours with the patient and have another session booked in to complete the assessment interviews and remaining tests needed.

After leaving the prison, whilst on the train, I dealt with some emails about other assessments, booking in therapy sessions for patients who come to see me related to trauma, and the risk assessment training I am due to deliver soon.

In the afternoon, at the office, I supervised and quality assessed one of my team members’ reports. This report was an assessment of a young person who had been engaging in harmful sexual behaviour and it was a complex case. It is always a privilege to supervise such reports as the psychologists who write them put so much work and effort into their assessments. I spoke with the psychologist about the case and gave feedback on the report. As an independent psychologist with team members all over the country it can be fairly solitary on a day-to-day basis, and so I always make an effort to speak with and video call team members.

I also scored up some of the psychometric tests that the patient I saw in the morning had completed, so as to inform my next session with him and so that tomorrow I can start writing up some of my findings. This took about an hour. After this, I prepared for the parole hearing I was due to attend the next day by reviewing my own report on the patient, as well as further reports. I made some notes to help me remember some of the important issues, so that I can speak about these issues when examined by the panel and the patient’s solicitor. I enjoy attending hearings and speaking about my work to assist decision makers, and this also helps me feel some degree of closure on a case because after the hearing the panel make a decision about the person’s parole.

At the end of my day, at about 6pm, I made a ‘to do’ list for the morning to try to keep on top of things. I reflected on the day as a whole so as to be able to have an evening where some of the more serious issues I have dealt with, such as violent offending, are not on my mind. This is sometimes difficult, and something that is important to keep reflecting on during peer supervision. Self-care is important in a job like mine which although very rewarding, can also be very challenging. Resilience is a key skill for a forensic psychologist, as is self-awareness because resilience can be hard to maintain when faced with challenging aspects of a job on a day-to day basis. Despite this, I enjoy my job immensely and the variation it brings to my working life from one day to the next.

By Dr Ruth Tully, Forensic Psychologist & Clinical Lead, Tully Forensic Psychology Ltd.