Dr Susan Batholomew is an Independent Expert who offers psychological assessments. She recently sat down to share her career experience and motivations to support better outcomes at Carter Brown.
What is your role at Carter Brown and how long have you been part of the Carter Brown team of Independent Experts?
“I have been working with the Carter Brown team for around five years as a psychologist. During my time at Carter Brown, my role has largely consisted of helping provide assessments and expert advice for vulnerable individuals, such as children and families who endure care proceedings.
As a psychologist, I also provide assessments to those who need additional advice when deciding whether therapeutic interventions are needed or to see if a cognitive assessment is required.
What made you choose Carter Brown?
Susan said: “Before I started my career with Carter Brown, I was working at a community paediatric service where I was conducting assessments for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. After a few years, I wanted to develop my skill set and broaden my experience rather than just conducting assessments. That’s when a colleague recommended Carter Brown.
Already working as a paediatrician and as an Expert Witness for the service, she was aware of the role of psychologists and thought it was something I should consider. After registering and going through the recruitment process, the rest has been history.
Time has really flown since being at Carter Brown.”
Could you provide us with a broader definition of the types of assessments/categories of assessments that you complete?
“I complete psychological assessments for adults or children and provide recommendations as to the way an individual needs support. During the process, I assess whether the individual has a diagnosis, for example, a mental diagnosis or anything that would interfere with their ability to carry out normal daily life.
The second type of assessment I complete is cognitive assessments for adults and children, to assess someone’s thinking and understanding. An example of this is establishing whether there is a learning disability or a challenge in the way an individual processes information. This specific type of assessment can determine whether information can be provided in a different way to support the individual.
The final type of assessment I conduct is capacity assessments. This type of assessment identifies whether an individual has the ability to make their own decisions.”
What is the main driver in your line of work? (i.e. protecting children, keeping families together).
Susan said: “My main driver is working with children and finding out what the family needs. I strive to always deliver what is in the best interest of the child.”
“In the last five years, I have been able to use my skills and knowledge to make a positive impact on individuals’ lives. Being able to work with children and families who are presented with complex situations and providing them with specialist assessments drives my passion and work.”
What is the most challenging aspect of being an Independent Expert?
Susan shared: “Sometimes, it is not possible to complete a particular assessment within the given 4–6-week timeframe. This can be a challenge, but it doesn’t happen often. I have now learned how to manage this, and I feel confident to liaise with the Carter Brown team if I don’t think there is a realistic timeframe for an assessment. The whole team is very supportive, so I never feel alone when I have an issue.”
Could you give us a few examples of positive outcomes from cases you’ve been involved in (within Carter Brown)?
“One positive assessment that sticks out in my mind is when I was asked to complete a cognitive and capacity assessment for a woman. In this particular case, her children had already been placed in care and she was in denial about why it had happened. While it took time to complete, the positive outcome of this assessment was helping her to understand the whole process. For example, it wasn’t something that just happened, social services had been involved for a few years. I gradually helped her realise this was not something to fight against and she took that on board.”
Do you have any advice that you would share with other Independent Expert colleagues that want to join the Carter Brown service?
“You should definitely have an idea of what you want to specialise in. Your skills can be diverse, but you need to have an idea of the cases you are going to take onboard.
You need to have some knowledge about a child’s learning, social, behavioural and personality development and even more understanding of how a child might approach these during certain situations.”
If you find yourself not knowing what kind of cases you want to work on, try and gain some knowledge into the area you think you might go into.
From my experience, working with Carter Brown has given me flexibility to work with a vast group of clients and allowed me to use my clinical and specialist assessment skills to form meaningful evaluations to support the individual and their family needs.
Explore our opportunities to join our team of Independent Expert Witnesses here.