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Forensic Clinical Psychology

The Psychology Department at the National Forensic Mental Service provides individual assessment and intervention, group therapy and psychological consultation aiming to reduce distress and improve patient functioning. Psychologists are initially trained as behavioural scientists which usually results in the academic qualification of a B.Sc. and M.Sc. Following the completion of these primary degrees, professional psychologists undergo advanced training in the fields of clinical or counselling psychology resulting in a doctorate level qualification.

Professional psychology can be contrasted to psychiatry in that the psychologist approaches the study of mental disorders from the perspective of normal development rather than illness. Psychologists are therefore interested in how a person has negotiated their development including cognitive development and psychosocial tasks such as developing a peer group, recreational outlets, independent living, personality and identity. Psychologists are also interested in psychological processes underpinning mental disorders like schizophrenia. For example, in some cases patients may struggle to ask sceptical questions or update their beliefs in light of new evidence which may maintain symptoms such as delusions. As behavioural scientists, psychologists collaborate with patients using interviews, psychometric tests and observations to arrive at a shared understanding of patients’ difficulties. As clinicians, psychologists are skilled in various psychological approaches including cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy, behavioural interventions and family therapy as they apply to patients’ unique difficulties.

Members of the psychology team provide leadership on three of the seven ‘pillars of care’ within the National Forensic Mental Health Service including Pillar 2, which focuses on mental health interventions, Pillar 3, which focuses on substance misuse interventions, and Pillar 4, which focuses on interventions targeting harmful behaviour and violence. As pillar leads these psychologists play an important role sequencing and integrating the interventions into a coherent and comprehensive treatment. As experts in assessment and therapy psychologists also offer bespoke interventions for those patients who have not benefited from routine treatment delivered under the ‘pillars of care’. 

The Psychology Department within the National Forensic Mental Health Service is also involved in service evaluation and research aimed at monitoring and improving treatment and outcomes for patients and their families. The outcome of these initiatives has been published in peer reviewed academic journals.  The Psychology Department enjoys strong academic links with Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, the National University of Ireland Galway and Maastricht University, the Netherlands.