U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Testifying in Court about Trauma: How to Prepare

NCJ Number
Date Published
7 pages
Since mental health therapists often must provide treatment for trauma in cases addressed in court venues, this paper provides guidance for these therapists in preparing to testify in court about trauma-related matters.
The therapist is first advised that the party requesting the testimony may or may not be an ally in the care of the therapist's client; therefore, the therapist should determine the role of the attorney making the request so as to ensure that proper releases of information have been signed before providing any information. Independent legal advice should be obtained in determining how to handle issues and documents that raise concerns about confidentiality and the therapist-client privilege. Issues likely to arise in such testimony are identified and discussed in this paper. Preparing to testify about a client's trauma is then addressed, followed by guidance on preparing to speak as an expert witness about general principles of trauma and how they apply to the therapist's client. Another section provides advice on preparing the therapist's client and caregivers (when clients are children or youth) for the court appearance and issues likely to be addressed in the testimony. Ethical considerations are then discussed in relation to duty to the client, the scope of practice, and a self-assessment questionnaire. Given the potential for this to be a stressful experience for the therapist, suggestions are offered for self-care.