At last! A new voice

At last! A new voice

April 11, 2020

Saji Damodaran and myself are in the process of establishing the Section of Civil Assessment Psychiatry within the college. I invite you to join the WhatApp group

For many years I have been concerned about the lack of training, professional development, accreditation, organised mentoring and the belief of many that the work of civil assessment does not require a special skill set.

In 2013 I organised a training weekend with Nigel Strauss with almost no publicity and was astonished by the positive response. We did another training session but we had concerns that there was no opportunity to accredit training or to provide any follow-up. It was in that context that I extensively researched all the legislation relevant to our work together with looking at other resources and wrote a booklet that was recently expanded and published as The Guide to Civil Psychiatric Assessment.

I had hoped that the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry would advance this process of training and accreditation but this has not occurred. It took some time for me to realise that the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry is an unholy alliance between those who do criminal work and those who do civil work and we have almost nothing in common, of course there is some overlap but the Faculty is dominated by those who do the criminal work. Indeed the Faculty conference in Perth in 2016 was on the topic of

Goals, purposes and strategies for prisoner and staff mental wellbeing in custody

Nothing about civil assessment.

The Faculty have an accredited training program regarding criminal justice psychiatry but no training, accredited or otherwise, for psychiatrists who wish to do civil assessments. This training is part of the Fellowship and does not cater to mid career psychiatrists who seek extra expertise to refresh their professional life.

The Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry, until recently, defined forensic psychiatry as that area of psychiatry that dealt with the criminal justice system!

The Faculty is dominated by psychiatrists who work in the criminal justice system, most are public-sector employees and some working University departments of Forensic Psychiatry. It is understandable that their prime interest is criminal justice psychiatry. At the meeting Sydney in 2018 the director of training in NSW told me that in no circumstances would training be offered to psychiatrist interested in doing civil work, my response was on the lines of ‘be fruitful and multiply – off’

However this reflects a broader view both in the College and in various schemes that any qualified psychiatrist can do this work. I believe that this work requires a particular skill set that not all possess, we have psrticular issues that no-one else either understands or cares about.

I was asked to talk about our discipline at a meeting of our Melbourne MedicoLegal group and from that meeting the idea of a new section emerged.  The RANZCP are developing new criteria for sections so there may be some delay before we are ‘official’ but there has been widespread interest in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and I hope in the other states and territories, not sure about New Zealand. I will keep you informed

Have a look at the WhatsApp forum and join in the discussion.


Leave a Comment