David has been a medico-legal expert for over 20 years specialising in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
He graduated in psychology from the University of Hull in 1968. David chose the mathematical psychology option in the final year. This was for two reasons: first he wanted to become a clinical psychologist and also thought that the abnormal psychology option would mean he would be replicating what he would be studying in clinical training; secondly by the third year of a degree he could read and understand most of the literature but, mathematical psychology required special training.
After the summer vacation during which he worked as a psychological statistician in the child guidance research department of the largest children’s hospital in Chicago, he began clinical training by apprenticeship in the NHS.
The training was generic. There were mandatory placements in adult mental health, child mental health, which was then termed sub-normality, now known as learning disability, neuro-science and physical medicine, known now as rehabilitation.
Behavioural work had been published but was not widely used. Equally cognitive approaches e.g. Kelly’s Construct Theory was published but had not been in a form that could be used in most NHS settings. David’s role was to administer tests and interpret the results. There was much knowledge about how to interpret all manner of distributions of subtest scores. Despite this, he thought it was limiting to rely on test norms that were derived from random samples specifically chosen to cancel out the effect of irrelevant variables. It seemed to him that the richness of being human was born of the high level interactions between the innumerable factors that affect people. David was slow to recognise that many normative tests measured fixed and enduring psychological attributes such as aptitude, ability and personality.
Many problems of a psychological nature present at the experiential level as symptoms. It is important to be able to reduce the burdens born of these problems. This involved modifying symptoms. It was clear that a measurement technology designed to monitor fixed and enduring attributes was not appropriate for use with fluid variables. Normative standards had little relevance to experiential factors.
In terms of clinical experience David has always sought to broaden his understanding. He specialised in children in his clinical training but was fascinated by neuroscience and years later had top-up training in neuropsychology. This led to an interest in epilepsy. He also had a job in psychiatric rehabilitation. This largely involved maintaining and extending severely disabled psychiatric patients. It also brought him into contact with physical disability. David worked in a spinal injury unit, specialist facilities for people with hearing problems and pain relief. Later in his career he worked with elderly people with dementia.
After 23 years he left the NHS and worked in a leading hyperbaric medicine unit that treated people who had carbon monoxide poisoning.
Since then he has concentrated on the medico-legal sector as an independent PTSD expert for over 20 years.
Medico legal psychologist and PTSD expert in Plymouth, Dr David J Mulhall