Dr Ewald Crause
Welcome to another edition of PsyTalk, our quarterly bulletin showcasing the work of PsySSA’s Divisions, Standing Committees and Branches. We trust that you will find the content topical and relevant to our profession.
Our role as psychological service providers is primarily support driven, or at least it should be. This is why I chose the profession. But ‘support’ is largely depended on the expectation of the service and, in a world with differences of opinion, what I deem a worthy cause or appropriate action could be seen as the opposite by others.
So, when we talk differences of opinion there is a cordial manner in which two opposing sides can discuss and ultimately resolve the impasse amicably… a win-win outcome for that matter. However, ‘win-win’ does not necessarily exist within the majority of custody cases referred to psychologists…It should be, but more often than not both sides have a singular goal in mind (i.e., sole custody of a minor). Similarly, when it comes to psychologists called as expert witnesses within criminal court cases, or even testifying as a respondent for the defense (or accused) it is blatantly clear that conceding an inch on a matter of law is not a task easily accomplished by two opposing sides.
Working as a psychologist in a forensic setting is a line of work that few people are drawn to… where the risks and rewards are two sides of the same coin. I don’t particularly enjoy the field nor have I ever been a fan of any legal drama (including Ally McBeal and Law & Order.) so I know that I am biased to a large extent. But increasingly I find myself venturing on a proverbial tightrope where the forces of 1) maintaining high ethical standards, 2) the scaling of psychological services within the public service sphere, and 3) ensuring accessibility and sustainability to psychological support seem increasingly unobtainable. I am reminded if the terrible Life Esidimeni tragedy and seek refuge amongst those dedicated to find solutions for our real-world problems.
However, the more I find myself in these situations where there is a marked discrepancy between what I am expected to do and what I can achieve the more I am reminded of how we as a profession have not been adequately prepared for the world we find ourselves in. Our dilemma is that the need for psychological services have increased beyond the academic and private practice spheres and now begs the question, how are we equipped to represent clients when the Court calls on us.
“You choose your profession, but often the profession chooses you.”
In conclusion… I started this piece by referencing the ‘support’ we can, and should offer our clients. ‘Support’ for me would not be defined as fighting a battle in court on behalf of a client but I have realized that in matters of the law it is better to be well-informed and overly prepared for when that day comes. I have found the links to resources in this bulletin extremely informative and topical.
In this issue we share with you content on Psychology in Legal/Forensic Settings. We hope that you will find the information relevant and thought provoking. And for those of you packing your bags for the Mamela Congress, I will see you next week.