Refuting Adverse Experts
It is often amazing how little attorneys (and thus courts) know about the qualifications of experts in the area of allegations of child sexual abuse, and generally in the area of mental health. There are three kinds of professionals who provide expert evaluations and expert testimony in cases of the alleged sexual abuse of children: psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. All three professions are subject to licensing in all fifty states.
Major confusion regarding mental health professionals arises with respect to the use of designations such as "psychotherapist", "therapist", "family therapist", "psychoanalyst", "counselor", and "family counselor", which generally, (dependent upon state law), are not protected titles.
The vast majority of evaluations performed in child sexual abuse allegations are performed by a national cadre of partially-educated individuals employed by agencies and generally referred to as "caseworkers". These are generally the folk who perform child abuse investigations.
Who are these people? Richard Gardner has eloquently described them in his book Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited (Creative Therapeutics, Cresskill, N.J., 1991):
There is no generally recognized training program for sex abuse evaluators. The field is basically "open territory", some training in psychology, some in social work, and many in various aspects of "social service". Many self-styled "therapists" have absolutely no training at all even in related disciplines...Some of these self-styled therapists have also crept into the sex abuse field, where they serve not only as evaluators but therapists as well. Sex abuse is a "growth industry". Until recently, they tell us, when we were not aware of how widespread the sex abuse phenomenon was, we did not train many individuals who were qualified to conduct such evaluations and provide appropriate treatment. Now we have come to appreciate how limited are the number of people available to take on the monumental task of processing all these cases....Many of these ill-qualified and incompetent people take "courses" in which they are trained by others of questionable qualification....Most sex abuse workers operate in the context of government agency....[pp.46-48].
It behooves the attorney working in the area of false allegations of child sexual abuse to be intimately familiar with the qualifications of caseworkers in your jurisdiction. Are they required to hold college degrees? What exactly is the "in-service" training that these workers receive? We are familiar with one jurisdiction in which protective caseworkers were required to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show as part of their training! The attorney who performs the appropriate homework with regard to the qualifications of agency personnel involved in a case will often be surprised to find out the background of the opposition's "star" expert -- but not as surprised as the court!
[For complete details, see False Allegations Of Child Sexual Abuse: Attorney & Client Desk Reference, Section E: "Refuting Adverse Experts"].