A Psychology expert witness is a Psychologist who testifies on behavioral, cognitive, and mental health issues affecting children and adults. Psychology is the field of science dealing with the human mind, particularly as it relates to cognitive function and behavior. Clinical Psychologists diagnose and treat behavioral, cognitive, and mental health issues that affect patients of all ages, though Child (Pediatric) Psychologists focus on children, adolescents, and their interactions with family. Some Psychologists hold a Master’s Degree requiring 2 to 3 years of graduate education beyond a Bachelor’s Degree. Psychologists with the highest level of training secure doctorate degrees requiring up to 7 years of postgraduate education. Psychologists with a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree focus heavily on clinical work, while those with a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD) focus on research and methodology while also performing clinical work. Psychologists work in a variety of settings including private practices, universities, outpatient facilities, and correctional healthcare systems (prisons and jails). In their clinical practice, Psychologists treat diverse mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, addiction issues, and grieving. They use a variety of tests and assessment tools to evaluate cognitive functioning (intelligence) and personality traits that will aid them in rendering care through psychotherapy, counseling, or consultation with other specialists who may prescribe medication. In the latter situation, Psychologists work closed with Psychiatrists (M.D.s) who can facilitate patient care through medications, advanced testing, and hospitalization. Psychologists may also work with Neuropsychologists who use neuropsychological assessments and tests to diagnose and treat mental health issues stemming from neurological disease.
A Psychology expert witness is required in a range of situations in medical litigation, predominantly in Family Law cases involving child custody and guardianship issues. Although relatively uncommon, malpractice allegations against Psychologists may involve standard of care such as an improper diagnosis that subsequently subjected a patient to unnecessary treatment and/or employment restriction. Psychologists also may be asked to perform an Independent Medical Evaluation (IME), at which time the Psychologist will see the involved party and perform psychological assessment and testing.