Expert witness vs treating therapist
There are many sorts of witness; some of the most important ones happen to be the Expert and the Therapist. The input of an expert witness validates the legal decisions at a tribunal (Campbell 2011). The expert is guided by facts and law; they are impartial to the person being trialed. On the other side, is the treating therapist, the professional witness, who regards only the patient’s health (Higgens 2007). The therapist can circumstantially be regarded as a witness because she is guided by the best interest of the patient (Reid 2010). Between both witnesses and how they present evidence, the therapists must seek to protect the patient where the expert will protect nonnegotiable facts.
The court is partial toward expert witnesses. This is evident to an expert witness being admissible, automatically acceptable, in a court of law—and in some cases, a mandatory aspect. This is popular compared to the infrequent necessity of a therapist. The feeling transcends as experts and scholars alike have observed the knowledge of a therapist to be a limited, if not a blind-sighted perspective. Even the court of law has set a benchmark for the extent to which such evidence will be adduced where the therapist can by-right-refuse to offer, divulge, in evidence.
The treating therapist has privilege. Why the therapist can refuse is expected to be in the best interest of the client. Because a therapist’s evidence is obtained in-confidence, she can assert professional privilege and rightly decline to submit thorough evidence. If the court requires more, then the law provides for a subpoena to which a therapist is bound to, and cannot ignore. An extension of a therapist providing evidence is employing others, possibly an expert witness, to speak her behalf. When using an expert witness, the only required evidence is adducing what is legally relevant rather than evidence that can be taken out of context.
Caution between the expert witness and the therapist is imbalanced. An expert witness has little to fear when adducing, offering evidence. What they say is backed by facts and other leading experts. The same could be said for therapists, but there is more to consider. A therapist must exercise caution, and are professionally advised to do so with matters of evidence (Higgins 2007). A therapist would be savvy to know that matters of opinion are optional, and they are not required to adduce such evidence. This does not extend to the therapist informing detailed evidence because, within a case, it is essential to consider when the meddling of some called hearsay can be present—where the information has been filtered through to many matters instead of having a direct source (Kassin, Fein, & Markus 2011).
A therapist can be used against her own client. The notes of psychotherapy are no exception to hearsay evidence, and are considered admissible. If and when an attorney demands for the psychotherapist’s notes, the content is solely used to advance the case of the attorney’s client. A therapist cannot refuse this request, and is actually compelled to adduce such evidence for the consumption of court (Campell 2011). The therapist’s confidence is being abused because the notes recorded (be it on tape, video, or notepad) were obtained outside of court or before there ever was a trial. In addition, the confidence is provided as corroborative evidence for the attorney despite how close its obtaining is to being hearsay. This inclusionary exception to the ordinarily inadmissible evidence is possibly informed by the need to meet the ends of justice.
Between an expert and a therapist, there are benefits and abuses. A cunning attorney can use either to assert justice. The expert is an esteemed witness, and is undeniable in their professionalism. The therapist, however, is a sympathetic witness seeking to defend the seriousness of her profession, professionalism, and her client’s health. Compared to the expert, the therapist has much more to juggle. With an expert witness, the evidence is adduced, as-is facts, without much room for fault or misinterpretation. This is superbly more credible when considering no matter how efficient the opinion of a therapist may be, it only takes a subpoena or a lawyer’s request, to undo it. Depending on the circumstance of how the therapist is originally involved, one would hope his worst chance doesn’t involve one.
Campell, T. (2011, November 2). Treating Therapist v Expert Witness. Retrieved September 13, 2013, from Issues of Forensic Psychology: http://www.campsych.com/witness.htm
Higgins, T. E. (2007). Social Psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles. New York: Guilford Press.
Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Markus, H. (2011). Social Psychology. New York: Cengage Learning.
Moser, R., & Barbrack, C. (n.d.). An Urgent Call: Treating Psychologists Are Not Expert Witnesses.
Reid, W. (2010). When Lawyers Call Clinicians. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 253-257.