The life and work of a forensic psychologist

There is usually a chance of treatment for even the most disturbed criminals, says Cristina Soeiro, forensic psychologist with almost 30 years of experience. In this type of work, she claims, mental health professionals truly need to work as a team. 

Catia Bruno
Cátia Bruno NewsMavens, Portugal
The life and work of a forensic psychologist - NewsMavens
Forensic items. Pixabay.

Why this story matters:

Violent crime has been declining steadfastly in the last years in Portugal -- by 37% during the past ten years. It is no surprise that the country takes up the fourth place in the safest countries index from the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Except that Portugal is also a country where the crime which increased the most in 2017 was rape, reaching its highest level since 2010. It is also a country where 83% of the women killed since 2004 were killed by their partners or former partners, highlighting how domestic violence is an ever present issue with dark outcomes.

Cristina Soeiro has spent a lifetime analyzing and treating criminals, particularly the most violent ones: murderers, rapists, arsonists. She also studied the effects on victims, particularly children who experienced sexual abuse.

Soeiro is adamant that many criminals can be treated and claims that is her "mission": "If we work well and if we can step in, we can decrease the number of potential future victims. That is very important", she sums up.

In this interview with Diário de Notícias, the psychologist talks about the kind of intervention done regularly inside the criminal justice system, as well as about her own life, stressing how asking for help regarding mental health is important. That is why she openly admits how she needed therapy to deal with a women trafficking case: "I realized it was interfering with my personal life so I sought help."

Details from the story:

  • Soeiro, who has a PhD in Forensic Psychology, is also a professor of the Police Academy.The training of Portuguese police officers is currently quite specialized in sexual crimes, she says, with a specific program.
  • Criminality has changed in the past 20 years. The police officers are now more apt in dealing with sexual abuse, particularly with children. Murders are declining, except for men killing their partners. "Some changes are connected to the evolution of society", the psychologist explains.
  • The focus of a forensic psychologist work when dealing with criminals, says Soeiro, is to make sure they won't reoffend. But each case is different: some people are mentally disturbed, others have personality disorders, some problems can be fixed and some can't. Team work is crucial to deal with these individuals, claims the psychologist. 
  • Domestic violence is still a major issue in Portugal, but the response "is adequate". The problem, Soeiro says, is on how the different bodies react and get on the same page. The idea of a specific court to deal with domestic violence cases, as one party suggested, is a good idea for Soeiro.

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The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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