Psycho-Legal Assessments: Creating a Framework for Expert Witness Work

South Africa

Juana Horn is a psychodynamic clinical psychologist who has specialised in various types of psycho-legal assessments over the last fourteen years. In this, first, talk, she shares the lessons she has learned on her journey to becoming a provider of expert opinion. The talk identifies various difficult areas and pitfalls, as well as some of the easier and more rewarding aspects that are likely to be encountered along this road. It is hoped that sharing lessons learned will support practitioners already doing psycho-legal work, or planning to embark on it, to develop the necessary confidence to do this work. This talk addresses various aspects to do with building a container, or framework, to 'hold' the complex and sometimes difficult content of a unique assessment. Issues addressed include: the role of an expert witness, lines of accountability, engaging in a contract and informed consent, participant expectations, and HPCSA complaints. It also outlines various ways in which a developmental psychodynamic orientation can be fruitfully used for a range of different kinds of assessments, including those in family matters such as care and contact, those in the criminal arena including rape, and the assessment of criminal capacity in children, and in serious injury assessments.

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