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Within the general field of psychology there are a wide range of different disciplines. Two such disciplines are clinical psychology and forensic psychology. Clinical psychology differs from forensic psychology in that the general purpose of clinical psychology is to diagnose and treat psychological dysfunction, whereas the purpose of forensic psychology is to provide psychological assessments in legal situations. A clinical psychologist is bound by an oath of confidentiality to the patients that he sees and is motivated by a desire to help those patients find accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for any emotional or mental issue that is disrupting their lives. A forensic psychologist acts in the capacity of an expert witness in psychological matters as they relate to criminal proceedings.Clinical psychology and forensic psychology both got their start in the same general time period, the late 1800’s. The first true clinical psychologist was Lightner Witmer, who was a former student of Wilhelm Wundt, the “Father of Psychology”. Witmer was the head of the Psychology Department at the University of Pennsylvania when he began his groundbreaking work with a boy that had trouble spelling. His tireless work was the first time that psychological research was applied in a therapeutic setting, and led to him opening the first psychological clinic in 1896.The first known use of forensic psychology came when Albert Von Schrenk-Notzing testified at a murder trial on the negative impact of publicity on the memories of the witness accounts. He was the first to suggest, in court, that too much press surrounding an event could lead to a “retroactive memory falsification”. Essentially, his view was that the witnesses would have a hard time distinguishing what they had actually seen from what had been reported in the press. This very issue is still at the heart of many legal battles today. It is interested to note that Hugo Munsterberg, who was another student of Wundt, opened a clinic in 1892 with the goal of introducing psychology into the courtroom. He was largely laughed at but continued championing his cause for many, many years.In order to practice either form of psychology, one must obtain a graduate degree in psychology from an accredited university. A clinical psychologist will work to obtain either a PhD, which is geared more toward research or a PsyD, which is geared toward treatment of patients. A forensic psychologist would also pursue a PhD but would need to augment this education with a legal background in order to become an expert witness.
You may earn a graduate degree in psychology from an accredited university through Argosy University. Click one of the links below to request more information about their programs in clinical and forensic psychology.
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