Though the professions of Psychology and Psychiatry overlap somewhat, there are some fundamental differences in their backgrounds and practices. There is understandably some confusion surrounding the way in which these professions vary, and we would therefore like to give you some more information on which expert witness may be better suited to your case.
Psychiatrists are trained doctors who have specialised in the study of the human psyche following their initial doctorate. Their status as doctors allows them the privilege of prescribing medication to patients, which a psychologist cannot do. Psychiatrists therefore are adept at distinguishing between hundreds of known mental health conditions and diagnosing their patient or subject. Furthermore, a psychiatrist may be able to pass judgement on how a condition has manifested itself. After their diagnosis a psychiatrist is well placed to suggest a course of treatment which may be sessions with their patient, medication or both. Their approach is entirely medically founded and rooted in their studies.
A psychiatrist’s expertise is transferred to their expert witness work. Their role in a case will revolve around examining existing evidence as well as performing their own psychiatric assessments on the individuals in question. This is essential in an instance where a misdiagnosis has taken place, or indeed the potential of mental health difficulties has been neglected all together. As well as an individual’s mental difficulties, a psychiatric expert witness can determine their capacity to take part in and understand court proceedings. They may indeed be required to produce a Fitness to Plead report in the necessary circumstances.
It is essential that the mental well-being of an individual is taken into account in order to ensure a fair trial. Certain mental health conditions can impair an individual’s ability to make sound and considered decisions. Therefore, in such cases a psychiatry expert witness may highlight the extent to which a defendant acted under the influence of their mental health condition. Furthermore, these experts can suggest which sort of institution would be more suitable to a defendant should a sentence be passed. This ensures that as well as a fair trial, the individual also receives the correct rehabilitation at the correct facility. In many instances a prison sentence can have a further detrimental effect on the mental well-being of an individual already afflicted with a condition.
Though a psychologist has a different and less medical background than psychiatrist, they can be equally as integral to a court case and a solicitor. Where a psychiatrist aims to ascertain whether an individual has a diagnosable mental health condition, a psychologist will ascertain the root of behavioural issues and their initial manifestation. In this sense they take a more therapeutic approach to understanding the individual’s psyche.
Psychology expert witnesses help the court and its personnel to understand behavioural issues. In a criminal case they may be instructed to carry out an in-depth psychological assessment of the defendant in order to discover the motivation for criminal activity and indeed their culpability. A psychology expert witness will delve into the emotional past and present of an individual’s psyche, as to assess any events or traumas in their life which may have caused them to adopt certain characteristics which may have led to the criminal activity. Emotional development, trauma, PTSD, childhood experiences and learning difficulties can influence the way an individual behaves and processes information. A psychologist expert witness will assess the individual in order to discover whether any of these issues are prevalent within the defendant and to what extent they could have affected their actions.
Both psychology and psychiatry expert witnesses can be of great assistance in understanding the mens rea of a crime committed. However, there are some fundamental differences between the professions of psychiatry and psychology, and indeed these differences are reflected in their expert witness work too. Understanding which expert witness will be able to aid your case the most can be a difficult task, it can also be time consuming and a waste of unbillable hours. However, at Foresight our dedicated case managers assure that you are put in touch with the most relevant and court ready of expert witnesses. Within the broad fields of psychology and psychiatry, there are many interdisciplinary niches and specialities which practitioners of these professions may pursue. We ensure that you receive the CVs of those best placed to aid your case by considering how well aligned your circumstances are with the individual expertise of an expert.