Becoming a Prison Psychologist


prison cuffsThere are many different careers that one can choose to go into once you have your degree in psychology. One such career is becoming a prison psychologist. For some that may not sound like such a great choice, for others, it could be the ideal choice.

What Exactly is a Prison Psychologist?

So, if the thought of working with a criminal population interests you, then a prison psychologist could be just what you’re looking for. Being a psychologist in a prison can play an incredible role not just in the prison society, but within society itself. Having a psychologist available to inmates can play a crucial part in their rehabilitation. It can also help those who are considered criminally insane.

A prison psychologist may often be put in charge of treating inmates that include:

  • Murderers
  • Sexual predators
  • Violent offenders of all types
  • White collar criminals
  • Inmates with drug problems

A prison psychologist can work in all types of prisons, jails, asylums that are mainly for those who are considered to be criminally insane, or even in courthouses. This type of psychologist will often be called to testify as an expert witness during trials as well as being involved in trying to stabilize people who have been found incompetent and unable to withstand a trial.

What a Prison Psychologist Can Experience

A prison psychologist can experience during their career the best and the worst of people and their nature. They will listen to their stories of abuse, drug addiction, violence, and then try to help change the cycles that disrupt their lives and have put them where they are. Being a psychologist in prison means they also will be asked to give information on how well the inmate is progressing before they are released on parole.

Psychologists working in prisons will often be exposed to some of the most horrible atrocities that humans are actually capable of doing. While being exposed to this, they are expected to try and maintain a compassionate stance for these criminals that have committed such terrible crimes. Often the psychologist working in the prison need to actively try to keep the inmates from adding additional crimes to their record while in prison and after they are let go.

What Do Prison Psychologists Do?

There are many different things that psychologists will be asked to do. They are quite often required to help in preparing reports and case files for inmates. They also will be asked to perform different tests on newly arrived inmates. The test they give include but are not limited to some of the following:

  • IQ tests
  • Thematic tests
  • Personality tests
  • And many more depending on the history of the inmate

Psychologists who work in prisons will also help to facilitate different therapy groups especially for those inmates who have a background of violence. Psychologists will work extremely hard to try and curb any violent impulses that any inmate may tend to have. They will try and work very closely with psychiatrists that work in prisons to put together a diagnosis for any given inmate and then try and treat any with mental disorders.

Those working in prisons as psychologists will often be responsible for monitoring inmates that might be suicidal. They also may be responsible for treating inmates that have a diagnosis of schizophrenia and other psychotic issues. They also may need to help inmates that have other serious mental illnesses and try and manage any delusions or hallucinations they might experience while they are incarcerated.

Why Is There a Need for Psychologists in Prison?

One of the most important reasons psychologists are needed in prisons is to help the inmates to deal with mental prison barshealth issues and any obstacles that have helped to contribute to their behavior in the past. Being locked up in prisons is extremely difficult and stressful for most inmates. This is why a psychologist is important because they are there to try and help these people adjust to this type of life.

Even though prisons are about punishment, there are quite a few instances where rehabilitation is the focus for many inmates. Since not every person locked up will be there the rest of their lives, there is a need for someone to help prepare them for integrating back into society. This is something that a psychologist is responsible for.

It’s important to note that inmates aren’t the only ones who gain benefits from working with psychologists. Society in general need psychologists working in prison. Providing inmates with the mental health services a psychologist can offer not only helps those in prisons to deal with issues like addiction, anger management, and other issues can make it safer for society as a whole. The whole goal of psychologists is to help those returning to society to live a good life and decrease the possibility of returning to prison.

What Qualities and Skills Are Required?

Being a psychologist in a prison atmosphere can be very demanding. In order to be successful at it you need to be the type of person that have the following strengths:

  • Strong work ethics
  • Good ability to cope with very high-stress atmospheres
  • Compassionate
  • A clear sense of boundaries
  • Truly believe all people can and do change
  • Strong administrative skills
  • Great communication skills
  • Emotional resilience
  • Must be able to quickly adapt to changes within the prison due to safety issues

Careers That are Similar to a Prison Psychologist

If the idea of actually work in prisons isn’t exactly what you are looking for, but you’re still interested in trying to help people with some of the same problems as inmates, there are other careers that are similar.

Forensic Psychologists – These are experts that apply psychological theories to places like courtrooms and a variety of correctional facilities. For example, a forensic psychologist can help attorneys with their jury selection or they might work in a correctional facility helping inmates to learn to deal with their substance abuse, anger issues, or mental health problems.

Correctional Counselor – Even though this is pretty close to the same as a prison psychologist, the counselor will also work with the inmates but the role is a little different. Counselors are the ones that often work with the inmates helping them to develop a plan for when they get released. They try to help the inmate to learn to identify any obstacles they could face and then come up with strategies in order for them to succeed once out in society. For instance, a correctional counselor might give them information for support groups they can join once released. They may also give them information on different job programs that will assist them in finding work.

Counseling Psychologist – These psychologists will specialize in helping to facilitate interpersonal as well personal function through a lifespan. They often will work with those in different settings like:

  • Prisons
  • Mental health facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Schools

They will often treat all ages and will use different types of counseling strategies to try and help people resolve their crises, learn to improve their overall well-being and to lessen their stress so they’ll be able to function better in society. These psychologists may try and help those who are locked up to come to terms with the things that could have gotten them locked up. Then they will try to help them learn better ways to cope. By giving people the tools to deal with their problems they can decrease their chances of continuing criminal behavior.

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