Forensic Psychology Opportunities in Canadian Graduate Programs: An Update of Simourd and Wormith's (1995) Survey

Article excerpt

Forensic psychology has gained momentum in North America in recent decades, and Canadian psychologists have made considerable contributions to the field. Strong student interest and a high demand for professionals, however, have not been sufficiently matched with the availability of formal forensic psychology graduate training, nor with sufficient scholarly discussion of this issue. The purpose of the current study was to update Simourd and Wormith's (1995) survey of forensic psychology training available in Canadian psychology graduate programs. Of the 39 universities with psychology graduate programs, 36 (92%) responded to the survey. Twenty-four universities (67%) offered some forensic opportunities for students, although there was considerable variability in the number of courses, students, and faculty members in the forensic psychology programs. Since Simourd and Wormith's (1995) survey, forensic training is available at 10 new universities. Of the 14 programs with forensic psychology content in 1995 and in the current study, however, more than half of them reported a decrease in the number of faculty and students working with forensic issues. Considering the continued demand for trained forensic psychologists in applied settings, further attention to the availability of both education and training in forensic psychology is therefore still needed.

Keywords: forensic psychology, criminal justice psychology, graduate training, education

Although it is a recent field, forensic psychology has undergone enormous growth in recent decades (Bersoff, GoodmanDelahunty, Glisso, Hans, Poythress, & Roesch, 1997; Glisso, Sales, & Bayless, 1982; Ogloff, 2000; Poythress, 1979; Watkins, 1992). In 1970 there were no formal graduate degree programs in this area (Ogloff, 2000), but now it is a legitimate and wellrecognised field of psychology (Porter, 2004; Pozzulo, Bennell, & Forth, 2006). The growth of the field can be measured by marked increases in specialized textbooks (e.g., Andrews & Bont?, 2006; Bartol & Bartol, 201 1; Pozzulo et al., 2006), journals (e.g., Criminal Justice and Behaviour, Law and Human Behaviour, etc.), professional associations (e.g., the American Psychology-Law Society; the Criminal Justice Section of the Canadian Psychological Association), as well as introductory psychology textbooks that incorporate criminal justice issues (Ogloff, 2000).

Before proceeding, some introductory comments on terminology are in order. Several terms (e.g., correctional psychology, criminal justice psychology, legal psychology, criminal forensic psychology) with varying definitions have been applied to this field. We use a relatively broad definition of forensic psychology, which includes any psychological research or practice that is related to criminal behaviour. Similar to Simourd and Wormith's (1995) definition, it includes the application of psychology to the law or legal systems (e.g., assessments, eyewitness testimony, jury selection and decision-making, offender treatment) or within various criminal justice agencies (e.g., correctional facilities, courts, forensic hospitals, law enforcement, probation). Additionally, forensic psychology also includes basic psychological research on the causes of crime (e.g., evolutionary forensic psychology; Duntley & Shackelford, 2008). Although some definitions of forensic psychology have been restricted to clinical work (e.g., Committee on the Revision of the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology, 2010), ours includes both clinical and nonclinical activities.

James Ogloff (2000) has said that "there is absolutely no doubt that the future of legal psychology, whatever it holds, belongs to the students in training and those yet to come" (p. 469). What does the future hold for forensic psychology? Judging by student interest, the future should be promising. Likely related to the enormous popularity of TV shows (e.g., Criminal Minds, Crime Scene Investigation) and movies (e. …


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