The Malta Independent 18 September 2019, Wednesday

‘Forensic Psychology? It's not ‘Silence of the Lambs’! – Prof. Marilyn Clark

Andrew Azzopardi Wednesday, 29 May 2019, 09:51 Last update: about 5 months ago

Prof. Marilyn Clark is one of the senior academics at the Faculty for Social Wellbeing.  She has been working at the University for these last 26 years.   Her main research interests revolve around criminal and addiction careers and victimization. She has worked tirelessly in the addiction and forensic psychology fields.  With regards to victimization she has collaborated with the Council of Europe on an international research on ‘Unwarranted interference, fear and self-censorship among journalists in Europe.’  published in 2017.

When asked about how she understands social wellbeing, Prof. Clark states that, “For me social wellbeing is about equality. A society characterized by equal relationships between its members will foster social wellbeing. Therefore, wellbeing is intrinsically related to social justice. By social justice I understand a situation where people feel mutual obligation to each other and a commitment towards fairness.”

Her stance centres around the fact that everybody in society should have an equal chance to succeed. People experience social wellbeing when their needs are met, and they can engage with life and with other people whilst having opportunities for advancement.

Prof. Clark also states that there is still a place for doing good in today's society and as academics it is our ethical mandate to foster social change through our teaching, research and contributions to policy development.  As mentioned before, one area that Prof. Clark has worked on profusely is that of ‘forensic psychology’ a much-needed area of study.  Psychologists with such a specialization are being increasingly sought after.  She says that, “Essentially, forensic psychology involves applying psychology to the field of criminal behaviour and the law. Forensic psychologists utilize their knowledge of psychological principles and use it to understand different aspects of the legal system and individuals involved with it. The Master of Psychology in Forensic Psychology programme provides the first step towards obtaining a warrant to practice as a forensic psychologist in Malta.”

The natural question that comes up is why people resort to criminal behaviour?  Prof. Clark states that, “There are many factors that lead to the commission of a criminal offence. Explanations for criminal behaviour abound. Psychological, sociological and biological explanations may all be brought to bear in order to explain why people break the law. While I have been trained within the discipline of psychology, I recognize that adopting a merely psychological focus is myopic and try to incorporate multi-disciplinarity in my thinking and understanding of human behaviour. This is very evident in the field of forensic psychology where theoretical frameworks from clinical, health and social psychology, criminology, and most notably sociology and psychology are all utilized to understand and address offending.”

There seems to be growing scientific evidence that forensic psychology can have an impact in reducing crime and criminal behaviour. Forensic psychologists often work with individual offenders and are engaged in assessing and managing interventions directly with them. They may however also be involved in program development, implementation and evaluation in research and policy development, as well as with the criminal justice system more generally, for example, with the police or with victims of crime. The opportunities to have an impact on the wellbeing of society is significant.

Forensic psychologists work within the criminal justice system where they provide for the assessment, management and interventions with offenders in prison and probation settings. Within these settings they assist in the development of sentence plans and provide therapeutic interventions aimed at reducing offending behaviour. They also prepare psychological court reports and consult with authorities to assist in the development of policies by applying psychological principles to the setting they are working in. Other forensic psychologists within the civil service are employed within the health sector where they assist other psychologists with different specialisations in providing interventions with particular populations of clients. Although these are the traditional employers of forensic psychologists, because of their expertise, they are increasingly being employed in other areas such as the field of child protection and within NGOs. In Malta forensic psychologists are trained to be researcher practitioners and therefore their research skills are also another important competency that is useful in the labour market. 

Prof. Clark concludes by saying that, “Working in a field that contributes towards a reduction in crime and that fosters a just and safe society is a very rewarding enterprise.”



Courses on offer for the next academic year

This coming October the Department of Psychology within the Faculty for Social Wellbeing will be offering the Master of Psychology in Forensic Psychology as part of its Masters training programme. The Department, in conjunction with the Department of Physiology & Biochemistry within the Faculty of Medicine & Surgery, is also offering a Master of Science in Addiction Studies.


For more information email [email protected]

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