Department of Psychology


Dr Adrian Needs

  • Qualifications: BA (Hons), D Phil, C Psychol, AFBPsS, Registered Forensic Psychologist
  • Role Title: Principal Lecturer
  • Address: King Henry Building, King Henry 1st Street, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 2DY
  • Telephone: 023 9284 6310
  • Email:
  • Department: Department of Psychology
  • Faculty: Faculty of Science


I was a psychologist in HM Prison Service for fourteen years, attaining the rank of Principal Psychologist. I worked in a number of high security prisons (principally Wakefield, Full Sutton and Hull special unit), specialising in work with lifers, sex offenders and personality disordered individuals. My last few years were served at the Prison Service College in developing  training for prison officers and governors. Sidelines included being a hostage negotiation advisor (a role which extended to firearms incidents with the police) and an in-service counsellor for staff suffering from post-traumatic and other forms of stress. I left in 1997 to start up the first MSc in forensic psychology in Scotland and joined the University of Portsmouth as a Principal Lecturer in 2000.

A major impetus behind this change of direction was a growing role in the development of academic and professional training for forensic psychologists in the UK. From being forensic representative on the BPS project on Occupational Standards in Applied Psychology, I came to be Chair of the Training Committee of the Division of Forensic Psychology and steered the formulation of accreditation criteria for MSc courses in the field; this was followed by the development of standards for supervised practice leading to chartered status. I have also been a member of national working parties on homicide, suicide and disasters and is currently on the steering committee of a Hampshire- based initiative for diverting veterans from the criminal justice system.

Teaching Responsibilities

Course Leader of the University's MSc Forensic Psychology, a BPS accredited programme which began in 2001. Much of my teaching is on MSc units (e.g. ‘Theory into Practice …..’) and topics range from specialised assessment techniques to handling difficult (including potentially lethal) situations, from analysing offences to creating the conditions for therapeutic change. Contributions are also made to teaching on forensically relevant units at undergraduate level on topics such as homicide, sexual offending and working in prisons. Given my background it is unsurprising that these sessions are based in part on personal experience rather than exclusively on reading or research. I also have a substantial role in research supervision at PhD, MSc and BSc levels; many of the supervised topics explore processes relevant to offending and offenders.


I am a member of the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology (ICRFP) within the Department of Psychology.

My current research interests include the role of life events as precursors to homicide and processes involved in personal change. I have also supervised several MSc projects in the Young Women’s Unit of a large women’s prison, where the focus has been on attachment, instability of the sense of self and perceptions of the interpersonal environment. The latter area has led to an involvement in the area of therapeutic communities and improving interpersonal relations in custodial settings as a necessary part of the rehabilitative process more generally. Recent research has also encompassed the problems of former military personnel in prisons and the problems that veterans can face in making the transition from military to civilian life. 


Research profile

Explore my research profile, publications and activities on the Portsmouth Research Portal

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