Providing therapy for witnesses in court cases

20 Dec 2014 |  for counsellors | by Bill, writer at UK & Ireland Counsellor Directory

Some counsellors refuse therapy to those in impending court cases, for fear of being seen as "coaching" witnesses. But guidance does exist to help navigate this tricky area.

The 1998 report Speaking Up For Justice, recommended that vulnerable or intimidated witnesses should not be denied emotional support and counselling, and that they may need both.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service does indicate some guidelines on the provision of this support to those who may be called to be witnesses in a trial.

Their guidelines attempt to make a distinction between the use of psychotherapy and counselling by qualified practitioners and formal preparation of the witness for the giving of evidence in court.   They suggest that "preparation for court and carefully planned preventive work which does not focus upon past abuse presents less of a problem than interpretive psychodynamic psychotherapy".

The least problematic aspect of therapy, they suggest, will focus on improving self-esteem and self-confidence, often using cognitive and/or behavioural techniques.

Other issues that they suggest might be addressed in therapy are the reduction of distress about the impending legal proceedings, and the treatment of associated emotional and behavioural disturbance that does not require the rehearsal of abusive events.

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