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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

When a Child Complains to Their Parent

Communication isn't always straightforward. About the only thing that a parent can be sure of is if their child complains of feeling ill, this being evidenced by fever or another serious symptom. Otherwise, a child's complaint may be valid or indirect, which is similar to the behavior of adults.

Consider the man who is asked to purchase something by his wife and "forgets." This may be accurate if he has pressing issues on his mind or indicate his indirect expression of anger by behaving passive-aggressively. Similarly, a youth may behave in a puzzling way or make a puzzling statement to express a concern about the parent or another which they fear to express openly. Perhaps wanting greater independence than the parent allows or to react against what they interpret as the parent's deprecating comment.

As I never tire of repeating, the unconscious is very powerful and one must respect its power.

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How to Survive Your Courtroom Experience

Testifying in court is a stressful experience and just being there can be nerve-racking. During my first visit to a judge's chambers I asked where to sit though this was obvious. With experience I came to enjoy testifying in court as the government's expert witness. Providing information which always helped the participants since the more accurate information which a judge has the better will be their decision.

Judges have great power and making a mistake when testifying can elicit their verbal wrath and more. The following tips may help avoid this.


1. Never lie when testifying no matter how attractive this possibility may seem since the consequence can be severe. A New York psychologist who falsely embellished his excellent credentials lost his license after an attorney's investigation and complaint.

2. Never express anger when testifying since this works against you. Remain calm no matter how upsetting or even ridiculous is the attorney's question. It's not personal, he only doing his job.

3. Prepare yourself before testifying, winging it in court can be problematic even for an experienced lawyer. After describing the nature of the Thematic Apperception Test, a psychological instrument in which a subject creates a story in response to a drawing, the lawyer asked, "Well, Dr. Goldstein, if I made a story that I had sexual difficulty with my wife, how would you interpret my problem?" I could hardly believe the opening he gave me. With a straight face I responded, "Sir, I can express no professional opinion about your sexual adequacy with your wife." The courtroom broke up in laughter and even the judge smiled though I probably should have avoided temptation since there is no laugh line in court transcriptions.

Yet even with the best preparation pitfalls can occur. I once earned the verbal wrath of a judge by mentioning that I had been originally referred the plaintiff by his insurance company though I had not been instructed to avoid stating this. Nor, testifying under subpoena, did I even know who he was suing or why.

Remember that every new experience creates some degree of anxiety. Thus, because most people experience a courtroom only once in their life if ever, this discomfort should be expected.

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