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MSc Forensic Psychology


Course Description

Why take this course?

Forensic psychology is an expanding field. It interfaces with other disciplines such as clinical, social and cognitive psychology, as well as criminology and law in order to address issues of major concern to the justice system, organisations, individuals and society.

This is a unique course informed by research at the forefront of the field, with many opportunities to get involved with ongoing projects within the Department.

Applications for this course close 15 January 2016 to be considered for interview on 23 or 25 February and close 15 February 2016 to be considered for interview on 22 and 24 March.

What will I experience?

On this course you can:

Be taught by the largest group of actively researching academics at the cutting edge of forensic psychology research in the UK
Put your investigative techniques to the test in our Forensic Interviewing Suite
Benefit from our connections with a variety of custodial establishments including adult male and women's prisons, young offenders' institutions and secure hospitals

What opportunities might it lead to?

Accredited by the BPS, our Master’s degree is recognised as providing an important step towards eventual chartered status as a forensic psychologist. It aims to provide you with a systematic knowledge and understanding of forensic psychology, in accordance with the academic requirements of the Division of Forensic Psychology (DFP), the British Psychological Society (BPS) for accredited courses and eventual progression to autonomous practice.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

Working in prisons
Probation work
The police force
Social work
Health services
The courts
Academia
Private practice

Module Details

The course content is structured to reflect developments and priorities in the field of forensic psychology and is kept under constant review to keep it up-to-date.

Here are the units you will study:

Theory into Practice: Foundations of Professional Competence in Forensic Psychology: This unit provides a foundation for working as a scientist-practitioner. From an early introduction to concepts of reflective practice, personal development and core skills relevant to completing the course, it moves to encouraging an awareness of factors involved in criminal behaviour and their implications. The focus is on the application and development of skills in analysis and less on the learning of facts and theories. In the second part of the unit, the focus moves to tasks and challenges that forensic psychologists encounter in applied settings. Some, such as the design and evaluation of training for other personnel or consultancy skills, are of major relevance to Stage 2 of the system for progression to chartered status that usually follows the course. Others such as countering manipulation, stress and managing aggression can be crucial to survival as well as effectiveness as a practitioner.

Assessment and Interventions with Offenders: This unit is concerned with providing an understanding of the theoretical and empirical underpinnings, contents and methods of current and widely-used approaches to assessment (including risk assessment) and interventions with offenders. These approaches are linked and provide a framework for the organisation and evaluation of information, particularly in relation to efficient, useful and accurate formulation and what works in the delivery of interventions. It will build upon knowledge of factors related to criminal behaviour with a focus on effective approaches and context-related factors in the understanding and management of offenders in a variety of settings.

Empirical Research Project for Forensic Psychology: For this unit you will undertake a complete piece of empirical research in an area of forensic psychology that you find particularly interesting. It provides an opportunity to develop and integrate a range of skills and areas of knowledge including creative formulations, problem-solving, ethics, handling interpersonal demands, use of IT and analytical techniques, and writing to a publishable standard.

Investigative Psychology and the Legal Process: This focuses on the contribution made by psychology in the context of forensic investigations and the role of psychologists in criminal and civil law proceedings. It is concerned with the application of psychological research and theory in an effort to critique (and improve) practice in criminal and civil justice systems as an applied context for testing the validity and efficacy of psychological theories and innovative practice derived from these theories. Topics cover relevant procedural information to ensure you appreciate investigative, judicial and custodial processes, and the role of psychologists within these frameworks. Theory and research relevant to applied cognitive and social psychology are presented to inform an understanding of eyewitness recall and recognition memory (and memory errors), effective protocols for testing/probing witness memory, detecting deception and juror decision making.

Research Methods and Data Analysis: This unit is designed to provide a familiarity with psychological research methods and data analysis commensurate with understanding and conducting research at the postgraduate and professional level. Specific methodologies and issues of relevance to specific research areas are addressed within a perspective that emphasises creative problem-solving.

Programme Assessment

We give high priority to integrating our research activities with your teaching programme. This ensures that you learn about the most important and current issues in forensic psychology that effect real-life practice.

Teaching usually takes the form of lectures and small tutorial groups, together with practical sessions in our labs and studios.

We assess you in a variety of ways throughout the course. Here’s how:

Written examinations
Briefing reports and essays
Oral presentations
The giving of expert testimony
A research dissertation

Student Destinations

The work of forensic psychologists is varied. Depending on where practitioners work, it can range from criminal investigations to organisational change, from work with offenders to work with staff who work with offenders, and from matters of civil justice such as child access to operational emergencies such as hostage incidents.

Accredited by the BPS, our Master’s degree is recognised as providing the next important step towards eventual chartered status as a forensic psychologist. Following successful completion of this course, you will usually go on to do a minimum of two years full-time supervised practice in an employment setting.

Roles our graduates have taken on include:

Clinical psychologist
Forensic psychologist
Educational psychologist
Counsellor
Health planning analyst

Visit the MSc Forensic Psychology page on the University of Portsmouth website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Sarah Farman

187.jpg Sarah Farman, studied part time for the MSc in Forensic Psychology. She is now an Assistant Psychologist in a Medium Secure Unit for patients sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
There were 250 applicants for the assistant post, the most the NHS has ever had for any position. I believe that the Masters degree and my research experience were the strengths that set me apart and got me an interview.
My job involves assisting the Chartered Clinical and Forensic Psychologists in the assessment, treatment and management of patients. Under supervision I carry out psychometric assessments (e.g. personality, skills, offence specific), individual treatment, co-facilitate groups in areas such as anxiety management and assertiveness and I contribute to service evaluation. The aim is to assist patients to understand and live with their mental disorder and to help them address their long-standing problems and offending behaviour to reduce the risk of re-offending. The work is varied, challenging and very rewarding.
I've always been fascinated by people Ð the way people think, feel and behave. In the first year of my undergraduate psychology degree, I saw a television programme about female prisoners who self-harmed which had a profound affect on me and provoked my interest in both clinical and forensic psychology.
When I began my forensic Masters, I was working as a research associate for the Department of Psychology evaluating the effect of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy on female prisoners diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Most of them had a history of self-harm and a risk of serious re-offending. The treatment is a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy with influences from Zen Buddhism. The course fitted well with the research I was doing and reflects my current clinical work.
The Psychology Department at Portsmouth has a great reputation and the Forensic Masters is considered to be one of the top courses in the country. My time at the University has been invaluable, both because of what I've learnt academically and the interpersonal skills I have developed.
In the future I'd like to train as a Clinical Psychologist, working with people who have personality disorders. Until recently these patients were considered untreatable so it will be a new challenge for psychology.


Scholarships

Entry Requirements

A good honours degree in Psychology that is recognised by The British Psychological Society as conferring Graduate Basis for Chartered membership (GBC). All applicants subject to interview. All offers are subject to Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance.English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

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