Clinician Slams the Expert-Witness Racket

by Cheryl Romo,
LA Daily Journal
(largest lawyer newspaper in US)
December, 1997

Tana Dineen is a heretic. It wasn't her choice to become one; but things happen.

After more than two decades as a clinical psychologist, Dineen said she decided one day that something had gone terribly wrong with her chosen profession.

She saw therapists making big bucks by making people professional victims. Psychology, the science dealing with the mind and its mental and emotional processes, had become a billion-dollar fast-food industry. Some of her colleagues were making the really big bucks appearing as expert witnesses in courtrooms. In the process, she said, judges and lawmakers were being "seduced" into allowing these experts to influence legal decisions and verdicts.

"At a personal level, when I went into psychology, psychologists tended to have their offices near physicians because that's where the money came from. Now psychologists are shacked up with lawyers," said Dineen. In her opinion, new crimes are being "created" because "we need more and more clients. We both need clients."

So four years ago the Canadian psychologist left her practice, bought a Victorian bed-and-breakfast inn in British Columbia and sat down to write a heavily foot-noted book about her misgivings. The result is a muckraking volume called "Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People," published in the United States this year by Robert Davies Publishing of Quebec.

Dineen's scathing attack on the industry begins with praise for 19th century pioneers like William James, but it gradually weaves its way through modern psychological approaches that resemble black-and-white generic labels in a supermarket. "American society has abandoned its moral and cultural tradition, while psychology has lost its soul and neglected, even scorned, its own scientific foundation," she writes.

Dineen, 49, is a former treatment director for a psychiatric hospital in Ontario, where she developed a program for young schizophrenics that won an innovative-programming award from the American Psychiatric Association. She spent 12 years in private practice and now speaks regularly to judges' groups and law enforcement. She acts as a consultant on third-party legal cases. She is a member of the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association.

During a recent interview in Los Angeles, Dineen said she deplores the marketing of violence and fear based on weak to nonexistent psychological research. The underlying message of her book is to "stop looking to psychologists as these caring people. Look at it as an industry that using fear as its appeal."

And Dineen is convinced that her industry is targeting and diversifying its business into the justice system. "I'm an insider. I listen to what my colleagues say," she said. "The money today is in the field of forensics, because psychologists can earn 2.5 times more than they earn from seeing patients."

And the real growth industry, she said, is in family law, where judges often decide that everyone in a family needs counselling: "Judges refer families to counselling. We are all human. We would like to be able to make things better...But ask a judge: 'Do you know the outcome?' They say 'Not really, but it might help and I'll do anything I can to help.' I say: 'Show me the data. Where are the results? I don't know where the research is.' "

Dineen views expert witnesses as the hired guns of the industry and she contends that courtrooms have become places where one set of guns comes to do battle with another set. "What would judges do without psychologists? They might have to look at the evidence," she said. "We have psychologised everything.

We have gone so far into looking at things that supposedly only psychologists can tell us about them. We have stopped looking at the evidence."

Copyrigh t© 1998-2007 Tana Dineen,