Mental assessment: Don clarifies roles of psychologists, psychiatrists
The ongoing reference of drivers for various road traffic violations for Psychologicals assessment by the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, has generated several reactions from concerned individuals, activists and professional bodies, on the legality or otherwise of the exercise.
There is also furore over those that will be responsible for the evaluation exercise, with the Association of Psychiatrists in Nigeria, (APN), asking the FRSC to be mindful of the fact that psychologists do not have autonomous mandate to assess the mental status of traffic offenders, and that psychologists are subordinate to psychiatrists.
This did not go down well with the Nigerian Psychological Association, (NPA), who through its National President, Professor Andrew Zamani, a Clinical Psychologists, said,“Every psychologist irrespective of their areas of specialization have core competencies for this function. Practice inclinations and the contexts of practice however determine biases in the nature of assessment activities undertaken and uses of tests by psychologists.”
“If it applies to habitual offenders, it makes sense. For those who perpetuate high risk driving behaviors such as drunk-driving, exceed speed limit specifications, drive in the wrong lane, etc the decision is relevant. To implement this however a lot of things should be considered," he said.
Zamani said: “In the first instance, it is instructive for the general public to note that the discipline of psychology is a very large field. It has over 200 sub -disciplines that are defined by their theoretical projections and orientations of practical applications. The national requirement for every psychologist in Nigeria is to obtain a minimum 490 days or the equivalent of one year 36 days to learn psychological testing and assessment.”
“In the health care settings, Clinical, Health and Clinical Counseling, Psychologists work with Psychiatrists and other doctors as team mates and colleagues. Psychologists respect the relationship between the doctor and the patient. We also acknowledge their special and overriding role in decisions on admission and discharge of patients with their attendant responsibilities and consequences.” he said.
He said both clinical and forensic psychologists are trained to conduct the assessment, and are expected to show the same competencies as psychiatrists in this respect, so long there is an established prima facie basis for further psychometric evaluation and therapy.
“The psychiatrist is however more inclined towards the biological model and therefore gives his informed opinion based on this inclination. He also has basic training on the uses of psychometric screening tools. The psychologist assesses intellectual capacity, personality, attitudes and emotional functioning while the psychiatrist assesses symptom patterns and mental status," he said.