Doctoral Psychology Students Hone Testimony Skills

Published on April 25, 2016

Eight students in the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Eastern Kentucky University traveled to the University of Kentucky College of Law recently to hone their testimony skills.

The students, from Dr. Dustin Wygant’s advanced forensic psychology class, worked with second- and third-year UK law students who are members of the Trial Advocacy Board (law school version of mock trial) under the guidance of Professor Allison Connelly.

The law students conducted direct and cross-examination of the EKU doctoral students. Each EKU student was given a forensic report and psychological test results for an actual case that was previously completed by Wygant. The cases were modified to make the students the psychologist who performed the evaluation, and involved questions of competency to stand trial, legal insanity, and risk for future violence.

The doctoral students provided expert testimony about their cases.

The UK law students guided the testimony through direct and cross examination, and Connelly provided feedback to both the law students and witnesses. Wygant offered feedback after each case as well, discussing how the doctoral students performed as well as the actual case outcome.

The testimony took place at the UK College of Law courtroom, “enhancing the realism of the experience,” Wygant said. Connelly served as judge during the hearings.

“The experience was a hit,” Wygant said. “Everyone enjoyed it, and we plan to maintain this collaboration and do this event on an annual basis.”

EKU’s doctoral program in clinical psychology, the first practice-oriented Psy.D. program at a public university in the Commonwealth, was launched in 2015 to address a significant health care void, particularly in rural Kentucky. The curriculum provides opportunities for specialized training in substance abuse, mental health administration, school-based mental health, suicide risk assessment and prevention, and working with traditionally underserved populations, including veterans and their families, adults and children with developmental disabilities, and individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Additional specialized training opportunities include forensic psychology and applied behavior analysis.

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