Mary Petersen, L.M.S.W., A.C.S.W., P.C. Search… Heal… Solve… Thrive…

If you are an attorney looking to find a therapist who can also act as an expert witness…

If you are an attorney looking to find a therapist who can also act as an expert witness, consider all the ways that the utilizing the process of psychotherapy could help your client and your case. In searching for a therapist who can act in this capacity and work well with both you and your client, consider the qualities a good therapist should possess. A therapist functioning as an expert would be someone who has good clinical skills and can evaluate, diagnose, and treat various conditions (or refer to specialists who can), and help the client gain insight into him or herself.

A good therapist also would shed light on a client’s strengths and weaknesses, insecurities, defense mechanisms, survival skills, “character defects,” and coping strategies, and be able to explain how this might influence the client’s behavior.

A good therapist also would be able to help a client develop and demonstrate positive coping strategies in order to transform maladaptive coping skills into positive coping skills. A good therapist should be able to help you gain insight into your client’s motivation behind his or her behavior, which could help you build your case. A good therapist would be exceptionally articulate, both with oral and written language, as various types of communication are necessary to document progress in a hearing, deposition, or in court.

A good therapist in this process would be able to testify with confidence based on his or her experience, without being intimidated by seasoned attorneys or their cross examination.

A good therapist for this process could stand their ground and speak their mind clearly, directly, succinctly, respectfully, and without crumbling under pressure. Self-assuredness (without cockiness) is key. Many psychotherapists – even ones experienced in their field – will admit to a fear of testifying due to a concern that they will be professionally discredited and “made a fool of” in public.

A good expert witness obviously will be prepared for a potentially rigorous line of questioning and be able to maintain composure and respond in an articulate fashion to deliver the truth.

Finally, a good therapist to function as an expert witness will be able to articulate the difference between clinical behavior and pedestrian behavior. I have had more than one instance, for example, where a cross examiner has referred to my client as, say, “a narcissist.” They use that term because it sounds like a term a lay person might use to describe someone who is self-centered. But that does not mean the client meets the clinical criteria for Narcissism, and hence the witness needs to be able to distinguish between the clinical and colloquial meanings of words that sound similar so as not to be misunderstood or discredited.