The many different forensic treatment settings – prisons, jails, outpatient settings, community centers, and specialized treatment centers – provide many employment opportunities. Even within these settings, there are specific and differing programs that operate. For instance, a prison might operate a drug treatment program styled as an outpatient program, a residential drug treatment facility, a sex offender program, and general outpatient services, all in the same facility. In the outpatient setting, a forensic psychologist practitioner might be called on to conduct anger management groups, domestic violence groups, substance abuse services, and follow-up services with sex offenders after release. The diversity of practice experiences within the forensic system is impressive and sometimes even overwhelming.
But not every setting is right for every therapist. Some forensic treatment professionals are comfortable entering any correctional facility, while others might be more comfortable working at one security level but not another (e.g., a low-security facility might be more preferable than a maximum-security facility). There are forensic treatment professionals who find forensic outpatient settings similar to traditional outpatient practice and, therefore, more familiar and comfortable. It is important to assess and understand your own comfort level with the various forensic treatment settings before entering them and starting along your career path. One way of doing this is to consider the various settings and compare them based on external dimensions of forensic treatment. For example, how do the available resources compare between a maximum-security prison and a juvenile detention center? Are the practice challenges similar across the various treatment settings, or do certain challenges inhibit effective practice in one setting more than others? These kinds of comparisons can help you understand the potential challenges in a desired forensic setting. Comparing forensic settings can also provide you with possible interest in settings not previously considered, and inform you as to how external factors can impact your professional goals.