A Day in the Life Of a Forensic Psychologist

Nov 18, 2020 | 2020 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Ellery Kane
Author and Forensic Psychologist

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win either an ebook or print copy of Watch Her Vanish by Ellery Kane, and a link to purchase it.

What exactly does a forensic psychologist do?
I know precisely what you are thinking right now. You are picturing Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins—Clarice and Hannibal. You’re seeing a beleaguered Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross, hunkered over a desk, analyzing crimes scenes, profiling serial killers, and putting together a puzzle no one else can solve. But, for most forensic psychologists, a day in the life is far from Hollywood.

Forensic psychology begins at the intersection of psychology and the law, and its practitioners are involved in a variety of diverse issues ranging from criminal insanity to child custody to violence risk assessment. My primary job responsibility is evaluating prison inmates, most of whom have committed murder or another serious crime, have been incarcerated for a very long time, and are coming up for parole. I am tasked with assessing inmates’ risk for future violence, using an interview and standardized tools, to inform the parole board’s decision about release.

I am often asked what it is like to sit across the table from someone who has taken a life. In fact, this very question has inspired my “night job” as an author of psychological thrillers. But, I get the feeling no one believes my answer. It still surprises me how normal criminals are, even murderers. Sitting across from them is not that different than sitting across the table from anyone else. A friend, a neighbor, the cashier at the grocery store. Through my work, I have become more and more certain that we all have the capacity for good and evil, that it is a peculiar blend of choice and circumstance that puts me on one side of the table, him on the other. Most of all, I have realized that we should not define a life by a single moment—no matter how awful—but by its totality. As difficult as it may be, people can and do change.

Ellery Kane

You may not believe this either, but being a forensic psychologist is a lot like being an author. My job is to tell a story. I start by getting to know the main character, gathering information from as many sources as possible (the inmate, his prison file, criminal history, etc.), and a picture begins to develop. The plot, already written and sometimes inexplicable, becomes clearer. I learn how the main character has developed, how he came to be who he was, and why he acted a certain way in the world. Then, I communicate the story to others, in a way they can understand, trying to make data-driven predictions about how the rest of the tale might unfold. As an author, I relish the idea of my stories having impact, my words resonating with a reader. As a forensic psychologist, the stories (reports) I write carry great weight and with them great responsibility.

Writing fiction has made me a better forensic psychologist because it offers me a catharsis, allows me to make meaning of the unfathomable, and enables me to approach each inmate I evaluate with fresh and curious eyes. At the end of a day in the life, I hang up my forensic psychologist hat, my brain still buzzing with dark deeds. Then, I sit down and start to tell a story.

To enter to win either an ebook or print copy of Watch Her Vanish, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “vanish,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 28, 2020. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. MAKE CERTAIN YOU STATE IF YOU WANT EBOOK OR ARC.

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Ellery lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, a picturesque setting that provides the backdrop for many of her novels. Ellery’s debut novel, Legacy, received several awards, including winning the Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, young adult, e-book category, and the Gold Medal in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards, teenage category. Ellery was previously selected as one of ten semifinalists in the Master Class James Patterson Co-Author Competition, and she recently signed a three-book deal with Bookouture for her new Rockwell and Decker mystery thriller series. Her new book, Watch Her Vanish is out now.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. This could be a taxing job, sitting
    across from criminals, but also
    fascinating in as “what makes
    them tick”.
    print copy, please.

  2. Interesting interview. Not really a job I ever wanted, but I’m glad people do it.

  3. What a interesting life you have! This was so interesting to read!
    I would love to win a print version.

  4. I don’t know if I could sit across from a criminal. You have a very interesting job and would love to get a print copy! tWarner419(at)aol(dot)com

  5. We have a winner!


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