An interview with: Praveen Thyarappa, Consultant Psychiatrist and Independent Expert Witness at Carter Brown

Praveen Thyarappa is an Independent Expert who offers psychiatric assessments with Carter Brown. He recently sat down with us to share his 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 team of Independent Experts?

Praveen shared: “My role with Carter Brown is as a Consultant Psychiatrist and Expert Witness. I have been working with them now for just upwards of two years.”

What made you choose Carter Brown?

“I’d been considering medical-legal work for some time, but it seemed a bit daunting to want to do it on my own, then I happened to come across Carter Brown in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The aspect of there being a framework around the work, the nature of it and the option to seek support and guidance through the reports and other aspects of work seemed the perfect framework for me. It made me feel safer and more supported.“

Could you provide us with a broader definition of the types of assessments/categories of assessments that you complete?

Praveen said: “I mainly carry out mental health assessments, primarily in family law child care proceedings where the matter has come to court and there are concerns where one or both of the parents has mental health issues. My role is to provide guidance about the nature of the illness and the possible impact of that on their ability to be a parent. That’s been the bulk of the work I have done. In addition, I have also enjoyed capacity assessments for various cases, such as whether someone has the capacity to enter into a tenancy agreement, for example.

By and large what drives me is the fact that my reports and my work could be of assistance in helping to provide clarity around mental health; to give an opinion on the impact the nature of the symptoms has on them being a parent. The role of being able to assist the court is one definite driving factor. In addition, and probably equally as important, is the ability to be able to advocate (not in the legal sense) for the party who has a mental illness; to represent the person through the court in light of their mental health condition, clearing out any presumptions about common challenges of mental health and narrow it down to how it actually affects the individual person. Also, to represent the mental illness of the involved party is something I have found value in this type of work.

What is the main driver in your line of work?

He continued: “My main driver is to assist the court in reaching the best outcomes for vulnerable individuals using my independent expert opinions.  I also help the legal team understand the complex information and provide a sense of clinical objectivity to assist the court in reaching its final decision. I believe my advice and recommendations can help keep families together by doing what’s best for each individual.

Finally, protecting children in the context of family proceedings and supporting vulnerable patients who might benefit from hospital admissions or may need support in the prison system is a big driver for me professionally.”

What is the most challenging aspect of being an Independent Expert?

“The conflict that often goes with these matters. Sometimes in private law proceedings, but equally in conciliation child care proceedings, there is a disparity between the narratives that are held by the involved parties in relation to the concerns expressed. It seems like some of them may have a bit of blindness to accepting or acknowledging these concerns. I try to make it a point to hear the person’s narrative first and then cross-reference it with the notes or records that have been sent to me. This way of approaching makes me think – the narratives can be entirely different. Sometimes this conflict is a bit challenging to work with.”

Could you give us a few examples of positive outcomes from cases you’ve been involved in within Carter Brown?

“One of the first cases I worked on involved both parties (the mother and father) having mental illnesses, but the father seemed more keen to work through some of the concerns. As a consequence of my assessment, he was allocated an option to access therapy based on the recommendation and the decision was held back for a while. The father did try to make efforts to make a difference. It failed later, but the fact that an attempt was made and that he was given an option, was still a better outcome.”

Do you have any advice that you would share with other independent expert colleagues that want to join the Carter Brown service?

“The best thing I can say is that I’ve felt very supported. There was guidance and that seemed like I was part of something else – it didn’t quite feel like I was just out there trying to do this stuff, which would be quite intense if I was going it alone. It’s better if it’s done within a framework.”

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