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About Me

By Helen Smith, PhD

Many times, people ask me if I have an exciting job as a "criminal profiler" or if I dissect dead people. The answer to both questions is "No!" I am a forensic psychologist in Knoxville, Tennessee who specializes in kids (and adults) who are violent. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) defines the field of forensic psychology as "The application of the science and profession of law to questions and issues relating to psychology and the legal system." Ok, so my job is exciting (at least I think so) but I deal with live people who have very severe problems with anger and feelings of aggression. I mostly do psychological evaluations that involve assessing individuals to see if they are competent to stand trial, or are dangerous to others; or to make
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treatment recommendations. My typical day might consist of a parent, organization or court asking me to evaluate a child who has assaulted others, brought a gun to school or made homicidal threats. Or I might be asked to examine mitigating factors for someone who has committed a violent act. Occasionally, I might see someone for therapy who has been having homicidal thoughts. I try not to work with more than a few clients a week because of the stress, and I spend a great deal of time on each case. This is my day job.

My other main interest is in helping lay people in society understand more about the psychological and environmental conditions that might make the violent tendencies in kids worse. Anyone who works with children or has them knows that there is some genetic component to how aggressive or non-aggressive kids can be. But genetics does not explain the whole story of why certain kids become violent. I am interested in the societal systems and the environment that interact with certain disturbed kids to produce a killer. I have seen first-hand in my work what happens when the various societal systems we have in place fail to protect society. These systems include mental health facilities, criminal justice and educational systems, and the changing attitudes of our communities in dealing with kids who are aggressive. My reason for making the documentary, Six, was to explore one case study of six young murderers as a way to help the public understand not only the world of violent youth but the systems that failed to take notice of the warning signs until it was too late. I bankrolled the documentary myself because I believed it was important to tell the story of the Lillelid murder in a way that graphically demonstrates the failures of the various systems and institutions we rely on to deal with those troubled teens- failures that led to the death of innocents. It is only by understanding these systems that we can work towards solutions in the area of juvenile violence.

My next project is likely to be an educational video to be used as a companion to the documentary that will explore more in depth the societal systems that violent kids encounter and to offer some solutions in improving upon these various systems.

Before ending, I just want to say thank you to all the people who have bought my book, The Scarred Heart, the video, Six, and made generous donations to my website through the Amazon Honors Program. Each dollar I receive goes towards funding the next of my research projects for understanding more about the world of violent kids and providing more information to the public. Since this takes up so much of my time and is a labor of love (certainly not one of money!), your monetary contributions are greatly appreciated.


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