Carrying out clinical psychology assessments for the Family Court is one of the most interesting sides to my role as a clinical psychologist. Whilst the work involves bearing witness to stories of abuse, and usually at the more serious end of abuse, it can be hugely rewarding and fascinating. When I begin an assessment, I hope to meet the whole system around a child and their family, as I need to understand the family history going back generations. For example, I aim to look for intergenerational patterns of abuse, experiences of parenting and being parented, mental health histories and learning profiles. Without looking at the whole family system, I cannot fully understand the experience of the child within it.
Often other professionals and clinicians are involved in the same case and so the work involves communicating with other disciplines and sometimes court timescales mean that I only get sight of their reports at the last hour. Working to court deadlines is not always easy.
The most stressful part of the role as an expert witness has to be giving evidence in court. Sometimes solicitors representing four different parties are questioning me. Having a detailed knowledge of my report and assessment is vital if I am to be able to make my argument in the stand. There is no excuse for tiredness or even illness! Having given evidence several times now, and in different courts, the familiarity of the process is comforting, but the anticipation of the experience is always difficult. Whilst some cases have been challenging to say the least, on the whole I come out shattered but satisfied that I have played a part in helping to make a decision about a child’s life – perhaps the most important decision that will ever be made about that child.
Georgina Hibbert is a Clinical Child Psychologist, chartered by the British Psychological Society and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. Since qualifying, over ten years ago, Georgina has specialised in working in child and adolescent mental health. She works in NHS and private settings. She uses cognitive behavioural therapy, dyadic developmental therapy and narrative approaches to work with children and adolescents with depression and anxiety including OCD, phobias and panic attacks. Georgina is qualified in carrying out cognitive assessments and diagnostic assessments for autism. Georgina has extensive experience in working with children who have suffered parental abuse and has developed specialist skills in working with trauma. In addition to direct work with children and families, Georgina offers consultation to professionals, provides teaching and training to various professional groups and supervises doctoral research.