Remember that Walden’s Title IV Code is 025042.
In today’s complex legal system, forensic psychology professionals constantly provide their expertise on issues that intersect psychology and the law. In this specialization, explore the many ways you can interact with the court system as you gain a basic understanding of expert testimony, jury selection, and eyewitness testimony. Discover how you can work with police departments or other law enforcement agencies assisting in officer selection and training, stress management, critical incident stress debriefing, hostage negotiations, and selection of special operations officers.
Estimated time to completion is 1.5 years. Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable. For a personalized estimate of your time to completion, call an enrollment advisor at 1-866-492-5336.
The courses are delivered in a prescribed sequence. Each quarter includes two concurrent 11-week courses.
For students interested in assessment and treatment of forensic populations and in the delivery of traditional mental health services to populations served by the legal system, Walden offers a Forensic Counseling specialization in its M.S. in Mental Health Counseling program. To learn more about this specialization and view the course descriptions, visit.
Note on licensure: The M.S. in Forensic Psychology is not a licensure program and does not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology professional.
Students in this course are introduced to Walden University and to the requirements for successful participation in an online curriculum. Students work toward building a foundation for academic and professional success as scholar-practitioners and social change agents. They assess the relationship of mission and vision to professional goals, and they develop a program of study, a professional development plan, and strategies for online success. Students also explore resources used throughout the program, such as the online Walden University Library. They engage in course assignments focused on the practical application of professional writing, critical-thinking skills, and the promotion of professional and academic excellence.
Students in this course are provided with a foundation in historical and contemporary biological, psychological, and sociological theories of criminal behavior. Students consider two important questions in forensic psychology: “Who is a criminal?” and “Is criminal behavior a mental illness?” Students explore theoretical issues that result from attempts to explain criminal behavior in forensic populations. They examine groups of offenders, including mentally disordered offenders, sex offenders, violent offenders, and juvenile offenders. Students apply ethical guidelines and standards to the study and research of criminal behavior. They also use concepts and theories to assess the behavior of criminal offenders in case study scenarios.
Students in this course are provided with an expansive overview forensic psychology, including basic tenets, practices, and procedures. Students explore subspecialties of forensic psychology; roles and responsibilities; and related legal, ethical, and diversity issues. They learn how forensic psychology links to the criminal justice system as they explore related topics, including criminal profiling, police psychology, psychology in the criminal courts, and correctional psychology. Through this course, students acquire a broad understanding of forensic psychology theories and concepts, which they apply to the analysis of controversial issues and contemporary challenges within the field.
Forensic psychologists, and others in the field, often rely on psychological research for a variety of functions; for example, to extract empirical data about psychological tests or to determine the efficacy of different interrogation techniques. Through this course, students work toward becoming astute consumers of forensic psychology research, acquiring skills needed to understand and interpret data. Students assess the relevance of research as well as the significance of incorporating ethics into practice. They examine basic principles of statistics, such as reliability and validity. Students also learn how to critically read forensic psychology research and how best to apply research results to forensic situations in clinical, correctional, court, public policy, and police settings.
Understanding the characteristics and causes of atypical thoughts and actions—commonly known in mental health professions as abnormal behavior —is essential in determining accurate diagnoses, answering forensic referral questions, and planning effective treatment programs. In this course, students examine the history and evolution of abnormal psychology and how practitioners use contemporary diagnostic criteria of abnormal behavior in various settings, such as schools, rehabilitation facilities, community agencies, and forensic situations. They examine specific techniques for the diagnosis, assessment, and/or treatment of cognitive, emotional, and developmental disorders, as well as for psychophysiological and psychosocial problems. Using the scholar-practitioner model, students consider environmental and biological factors contributing to behavioral disorders. Students also investigate and discuss current and future trends, legal and ethical issues, and multicultural factors that complicate diagnosis and clinical assessment.
Professionals in forensic psychology use assessments to gather data from different sources to arrive at conclusions and make decisions involving cases or issues. In this course, students examine assessments in various areas, including violence risk potential, competency to stand trial, insanity, pathology, and child custody. They examine the varied assessment instruments and procedures used in forensic settings with adults and juveniles. They also assess factors impacting assessments and related challenges, such as ethical issues and multicultural considerations. Students are provided with a foundation in the knowledge of forensic assessment rather than specific skills in administering forensic assessment instruments and interpreting results. Students demonstrate their knowledge as they apply concepts presented in the course to assess a forensic situation case study.
A fundamental responsibility of forensic psychologists is to provide treatment, assessment, research, and training in an ethical manner. Through this course, students have the opportunity to acquire contemporary knowledge needed to apply ethical practice and professional responsibilities while working as forensic psychologists. Students explore the various roles and responsibilities of forensic psychologists. They examine the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct as well as the American Psychology-Law Society’s Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. Students apply these guidelines as well as critical-thinking and scholarly-writing skills to describe the ethical dilemmas, professional challenges, and approaches to overcome these issues within a professional forensic psychology role of their choice.
Mental health counseling professionals in all areas, especially criminal forensic psychological practice, may encounter various conflicts regarding psychological and legal approaches to treatment. Therefore, it is important for counselors to have a firm understanding of mental health law to avoid conflicts, such as issues of liability and malpractice. Students in this course are provided with the opportunity to examine several different aspects of the law related to mental health issues, including those constituting forensic psychological practice, such as civil matters (personal injury and civil competency issues) and criminal matters (competency to stand trial, criminal responsibility, diminished capacity, and death-penalty issues). Students employ recent court decisions and laws, such as the Tarasoff ruling, mandated reporting, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), to examine how mental health law influences the practice of psychology and mental health counseling.
Forensic psychology professionals play a vital role in the court system, providing consultation, expert testimony, and recommendations for treatment. In this course, students have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills used by forensic psychology professionals working in the courts. Students examine major roles of psychology professionals, their responsibilities, and required proficiencies, such as oral and written communication skills. Through application-based exercises, students engage in practical exercises, such as in writing reports, planning evaluations, and preparing witnesses for testimony. Students also consider contemporary challenges, ethical and legal issues, and the impact of technology on courts in the United States.
Students in this course learn about the various roles and responsibilities of forensic psychology professionals working with and in police departments, the structures and organizations in which they work, and the skills needed to perform daily functions, such as counseling and supporting police. Students analyze and discuss common issues and challenges, including crisis situations, psychological risks of police work, and stress management. They also explore less common roles of psychology professionals working with police, such as training in hostage negotiations and the selection of special officers (SWAT, snipers, and tactical commanders). Engaging in assignments designed to provide application of content, students gain practical insight on a variety of topics, such as diversity issues and training, community impact, and forensic psychology operations.
Students are provided with the opportunity to synthesize knowledge and skills acquired throughout their program into a practical project designed to promote positive social change in a capstone project. During this course, students work on a capstone project in which they complete a major integrative paper on a topic related to their specialization, incorporating theoretical and practical knowledge as well as social scientific research skills acquired throughout the program. The instructor may approve other capstone projects presented by students.
Students engage in a 12-week practical field experience at a site specific to students’ degree program and their anticipated employment setting or service population. Students work a specified amount of time on site, interact with peers, and share their experiences and perspectives. Gaining hands-on, practical experience, they apply concepts and theories learned throughout the program to the responsibilities encountered in their field experience setting.
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