Q: Why did you become a psychologist?
A: Well, to be honest, it was a bit random. I remember looking through the university handbook and feeling determined not to study anything that I had done so previously at school and was therefore looking for something a bit unconventional and when I stumbled across the psychology entry, I thought: ‘that looks interesting’ and put it down on the application form. Fortunately, I found it interesting from day one and the rest, as they say, is history.
Q: What do you like most about being a medico-legal expert?
A: I enjoy the analytical approach to diagnosing an individual’s problems, teasing out what is accident-related and what is due to other factors in the person’s life and also seeing how people have overcome their problems when I get to reassess them.
Q: What has your most interesting case been about?
A: This would have to be one of the asylum cases I saw, probably of a Congolese man who had been captured and tortured for his political views. It was a complete change from working with accident victims and the level of trauma was quite intense. It was quite distressing to interview him too.
Q: Do you help or hinder the compensation culture?
A: That’s an interesting question; I guess by being involved in this type of work I am contributing to an ethical and high quality approach to assess when compensation should or should not be forthcoming.
Q: Defendant or claimant?
A: I strive to be impartial so don’t actually favour either side.
Q: Do you see many malingerers?
A: Occasionally I have seen people that have been shown to be malingering via subsequent surveillance footage but it is not always easy to detect malingering on a psychological level at interview. For instance, I wouldn’t really expect people to develop psychotic experiences (e.g. hallucinations) following, for example, a road traffic accident, but on the one or two occasions I did witness this, it proved to be true in spite of my initial scepticism.
Q: Do you prefer to communicate via telephone, text or e-mail?
A: E-mail as it’s so convenient but I’m always available by phone.
Q: Do you interview clients using open questions or more leading questions?
A: A bit of both ideally. I tend to open things up initially but depending on the client’s responses to these questions I might adopt more closed questions as some people don’t always respond well to open-ended questions and need more of a prompt. I’m also aware of the need to gather specific and reliable information and closed questions can be a particular relevance here.
Q: What do you do to switch off?
A: My passion is surfing so that’s my ultimate escape although spending time with my young family is also a breath of fresh air and grounds me whenever work gets overwhelming.