Who is Dawn Hughes? Profile, age and career of the doctor testifying in the trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp

Dawn Hughes AP
Dawn Hughes AP

Amber Heard’s psychologist Dr Dawn Hughes took the stand on Tuesday, May 3, to testify at the former’s ongoing defamation trial against ex-husband Johnny Depp.

She was the first witness to be called by Heard’s legal team after Depp’s team rested their case following four weeks of court proceedings.

Who is Dawn Hughes?

Dawn Hughes is a clinical and forensic psychologist in New York City who specializes in the assessment and treatment of interpersonal violence, traumatic stress and the anxiety disorders.

Dr. Hughes maintains an independent practice in clinical and forensic psychology in New York City.

Additionally, she is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical College and Board Certified in Forensic Psychology.

Dr. Hughes was raised in New York City.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hamilton College in upstate New York where she majored in psychology.

Already interested in the intersection between law and psychology, her senior field study took her inside a state psychiatric prison facility.

Upon graduating from college, Dr. Hughes put her psychology degree to work and obtained employment in the South Bronx as a counselor for recovering heroin addicts at Narco Freedom, a methadone maintenance treatment facility.

Dawn Hughes

There, she gained exposure to repetitive and chronic traumas and social difficulties that often contributed to long-term substance abuse.

After one year, Dr. Hughes left the Bronx for lower Manhattan and pursued her interest in social and psychological issues that arise within the legal system.

She was hired as a legal assistant for the Federal Defenders of the Southern District of New York where she had the opportunity to research and argue psychological matters relative to sentencing in front of federal court judges.

It was that point that Dr. Hughes decided to pursue a more advanced study of psychology.

Dr. Hughes received her Master of Science (M.S.) and her Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University in Florida where she received extensive clinical and research training within the field of traumatic stress and interpersonal violence. Dr. Hughes worked as an extern-clinician in the Family Violence Program of the Nova Southeastern Community Mental Health Center where she assessed and treated victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.

She also was the research coordinator for the Sexual Abuse Survivors Program (currently the Trauma Resolution and Integration Program) where she researched the history and memory of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Continuing in the field of trauma, Dr. Hughes’ subsequent clinical externship was at the Veterans’ Administration Outpatient Clinic in Oakland Park, Florida, where she assessed and treated World War II and Vietnam Era veterans who suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological difficulties.

Dr. Hughes completed her predoctoral internship at Yale University School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry.

Her two rotations were at the Yale Substance Abuse Treatment Unit and the West Haven Mental Health Center.

Returning to New York City, Dr. Hughes completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program of the Payne Whitney Clinic of New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

In addition to conducting research, writing, and supervising psychology externs and interns, Dr. Hughes assessed and treated adults suffering from the anxiety disorders and the traumatic effects of victimization.

Dr. Dawn Hughes became Board Certified in Forensic Psychology on December 22, 2005.

The receipt of the Diploma in Forensic Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) attests to the fact that an established organization of peers has examined and accepted Dr. Hughes as functioning at the highest level of excellence in the field of forensic psychology.

The ABPP diploma has been recognized by judicial decisions, regulations, and statutes in some jurisdictions as the standard of professional competence in forensic psychology.

The Diploma awarded by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is the only post-doctoral specialty certification recognized in the American Psychological Association (APA) Directory.

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