Nikki has a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology from the University of Birmingham and currently works as a multisystemic therapist for an NHS Trust
I became interested in forensic psychology in the final year of my undergraduate psychology course. I took a legal psychology module which explored how law and psychology come together in cases whereby individuals come into the criminal justice system. I then researched potential postgraduate courses that would allow me to specialise in this field and came across the University of Birmingham's Doctorate in Forensic Psychology.
In each year of the three-year forensic psychology course, the university allocates placements to allow you to develop your clinical skills and apply theoretical knowledge gained in university workshops to practice in 'real-life' settings. My final year placement working with young people who present with complex psychological and forensic needs led to my current employment.
The university-based workshops provided me with the theory and evidence-base regarding offenders. The placements then allowed me to put this into practice and develop my clinical skills. The coursework was also useful in strengthening key skills related to writing reports, completing assessments and thinking about situations from multiple perspectives.
My current position involves working with young people who are offending, at risk of offending or displaying aggressive/violent behaviours. Multisystemic therapy is an intensive family- and home-based treatment model, where most of the work is done with the parents/caregivers. All the work is conducted in the family home or a location that best suits the family.
A typical day can involve about three home visits to different clients to review how things are going, any concerns they have, how they are getting on with intervention plans, and identifying goals for the upcoming week.
There is also a lot of telephone contact with clients in-between visits, as well as with other professionals/agencies that are involved with the young person. The idea is to work with all the systems that surround a young person - hence the name 'multisystemic'. There is also an on-call element to the work where families can access telephone support if there is a crisis in out-of-office hours, so for one week every month I am on call 24-7.
I have been able to take increased responsibility as my levels of competence and confidence have developed. For example, I provide advice to professionals in other fields, for instance, in making recommendations into the care plans for young people based on their needs.
It is very intensive work so sometimes it can be difficult to switch off. When the intervention does not go as anticipated, it can be disheartening as so much practical and emotional time and energy has been invested into achieving positive outcomes. However, the work can be very rewarding when positive outcomes are achieved that help alter a young person's life course.
I'd like to continue working with young people. However, I hope to work in a range of settings, for example, youth offending teams, young offender institutions and secure units.
My advice to others interested in a career in forensic psychology is to:
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