icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

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

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.

Be the first to comment

Legal: Attacking Expert Witness Testimony in Court

Lacking clinical knowledge, it's not easy for a lawyer to attack expert witness testimony in court. Following is what can happen when a lawyer tries to "wing it." I described the psychological tests that I used to evaluate the defendant, One, the Thematic Apperception Test which was developed at Harvard University in the 1930s,  Read More 
Be the first to comment