Mar 19

Giving All Professional Psychologists a Bad Name!

by Jack Singer, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Richard Samuels Giving All Professional Psychologists a Bad Name!

Dr. Richard Samuels Giving All Professional Psychologists a Bad Name!Much of the world is riveted on the Jodi Arias murder trial, where a “hired gun” psychologist just testified that she has symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), allegedly “caused” by her brutal murder of Travis Alexander, and this PTSD is allegedly responsible for selective amnesia regarding the specifics of the murder, itself.  Dr. Richard Samuels, a clinical and forensic psychologist, pointed to all sorts of “traumatic” events that could cause amnesia, including the trauma of murdering someone.  To extrapolate from his testimony then, any killer could claim amnesia regarding the murder they committed, because of the apparent PTSD.

As the defense unfolds in the Arias case, there are many absurdities, and one of the most egregious is Dr Samuels himself,  drawing such ridiculous conclusions, based on only 12 visits with Ms. Arias over four years, plus the results of administering only two, marginal psychological tests. This hardly fits the professional standard in forensic psychology of a complete psychological evaluation, especially with Ms. Arias’ history, which includes lying and changing her story numerous times with the authorities.

A complete and objective psychological evaluation of a defendant would include a whole battery of psychological tests, interviews with relatives and friends of the defendant, reading all documents written by the defendant, and watching video tapes of police interviews, etc. by the defendant. Then, when all the data is put together, an objective, reliable series of conclusions can be drawn.

When the evaluation takes place over such a long time as four years, repeating the  psychological tests is mandatory in order to determine the test-retest reliability of the results.

Dr. Samuels’ evaluation falls dramatically short of the standard.  First, he only visited with her over 12 sessions in four years (during which her story changed multiple times).  Second, he only administered two psychological tests and these were administered while she was still lying about her involvement, thus invalidating any conclusions he could draw from those results. Under cross-examination, Dr. Samuels admitted that he should have repeated the tests once he realized she was lying during the same time frame in which he was gathering the data.

The most frequently administered psychological examination in criminal cases is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), which not only would have determined whether Ms. Arias had a mental or emotional issue (including PTSD or a personality disorder, for example), but the MMPI also includes three lie scales, which would definitely tell if she was lying, confabulating or fabricating her responses.

A complete battery would also include projective tests, which cannot be faked and which would help uncover the true dynamics of Ms. Arias’ character or emotional issues.  None of these tests were administered.

Another disturbing issue is Dr. Samuels’ admission that he ordered a self-help book for Ms. Arias while he was in the middle of the evaluation process.  He claimed he did that because she was talking about suicide and he wanted to help her.  The rules for psychological evaluators clearly differentiate evaluations from conducting any sort of therapy.  Combining the two or blurring the lines represents a major conflict of interest and shows a disregard for the boundaries involved in clinical evaluations. This error is similar to a violation that Dr. Samuels was already fined for by the New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners, in a case in 2000. What he should have done when he sensed that she was suicidal is told the authorities and insisted that she get a treating psychologist or psychiatrist, thus removing himself completely from that role.

Clearly, Dr. Samuels could not remain completely objective during his evaluation, if he was concerned enough with her mental health to give her a gift of a self-help book. He claims he was not doing therapy; but, in Clinical Psychology, providing reading material to help a client is definitely a form of therapy and is referred to as “Bibliotherapy.”

Because of the inappropriateness of his testing, thus invalidating his conclusions, plus the blurring of his objectivity by crossing the line between evaluating and treating, all of his testimony should be disallowed.

Dr. Samuels certainly smells like a typical “hired gun,” who used unacceptable methodology and data to draw inappropriate conclusions, which were rendered to fit the defense’s theories and claims.

It is certainly a shame that in such a high profile case that the honorable professions of clinical and forensic psychology are represented in such a sad fashion.

Psychologically Speaking w/Dr. Jack: Jodi Aria Doctor Sells Out

Click here to listen to interview.

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About the Author:

Dr. Jack Singer is a professional speaker, trainer and psychologist. He has been speaking for and training Fortune 1000 companies, associations, CEO’s and elite athletes for 34 years. Among the association conventions which Dr. Jack has keynoted are those which serve financial planners.

Dr. Jack is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, FOX SPORTS and countless radio talk shows across the U.S. and Canada. He is the author of “The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide,” and several series of hypnotic audio programs, some specifically for athletes and some for anyone wanting to raise their self-confidence and esteem.

In his speaking presentations, Dr Jack teaches sales and financial services professionals the exact same skills he teaches to elite and world champion athletes to Develop & Maintain the Mindset of a Champion!

To learn more about Dr. Singer’s speaking and consulting services, please visit DrJackSinger.com and FunSpeaker.com or call him in the U.S. at (800) 497-9880.

  1. Dr. Sue Stone 19 Mar 2013 |

    Dr. Singer, thank you for your comments on the testimony of Dr. Samuels. I have been watching it also, and frankly, cringed when I heard him discuss how he reached his conclusions and the substandard methods and lack of time he put into the assessment of Arias.

    One of my biggest concerns was that in a case of this magnitude and given the nature of the crime, that psychopathy was not ruled out. There was no discussion of alternate diagnostic hypotheses and if/how they were ruled out when reaching his conclusions about PTSD.

    Additionally, when he stated that he considered her suicidal, he bought a book for her, etc., without taking the steps a psychologist would ordinarily take for a suicidal patient. Dr. Samuels has not done the field of clinical or forensic psychology any favors with his presentation.

    Dr. Sue Stone, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

  2. Dr. Jack Singer 19 Mar 2013 |

    Hi Sue.

    Thanks for your comments regarding my article on Dr. Samuels giving us all a bad name. Of course, you are right on the money!

    Dr. Jack

  3. Tanya 20 Mar 2013 |

    Dr. Singer, there is not much more to be said about such an unethical individual. Had he done everything by the book, he would not have ANY problems defending his findings. Instead we find him stuttering on the stand, getting angry because his lies are coming to light, and ruining his reputation on national television! I am so glad you wrote this blog.

  4. Nancy Turner 21 Mar 2013 |

    Hi, Jack …it’s Nancy (John H’s ex wife from grad school days)… your posting will probably find lots of hits today… Dr. Samuels certainly is the topic of discussion (and ridicule, including that juror question asking about whether PTSD, according to Samuels, could be brought on by a bad haircut…_). You’d be a good one, perhaps, to be brought in as a rebuttal expert witness! I just about laughed myself out of my chair when Dr. Samuels answered a juror’s question today by saying he found Ms. Arias to be “a very unassertive person.” Great assessment (NOT!). nancy

  5. James Ranahan MSW, LCSW 21 Mar 2013 |

    Two hundred and fifty dollars an hour for speculation. Huh? I have watched this expert witness fumble and shuffle and stumble to the level of incompetence. His “decision making process” during his assessment of this individual leading to his diagnosis of PTSD would not be acceptable in any grad school internship. What was he doing providing the individual an instrument with the instruction to record the answers on a yellow lined sheet of paper rather than the instrument itself. I know of no professional who would consider “transcribing” responses to an answer sheet. I’m concerned this doc may end up with PTSD. The good doctor sure looks like he could use a few self help books

  6. Jack Singer 21 Mar 2013 |

    James, you are right on and very insightful!

    Warmest regards,

    Jack

    Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
    Licensed & Certified Clinical/Sport Psychologist

    Member, Association for Applied Sport Psychology
    Member, American Psychological Association, Exercise and Sport Psychology Division
    Diplomate, National Institute of Sports Professionals
    Certification in Clinical & Sports Hypnosis, ASCH
    Diplomate, American Academy of Behavioral Medicine

    1-800-497-9880 (949) 481-5027 (Fax)

  7. Jack Singer 21 Mar 2013 |

    Hi Nancy!

    You are right on target. Nice to hear from you. The prosecutor has his own expert set to dispute Dr. Samuels. Stay well.

    Warmest regards,

    Jack

    Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
    Licensed & Certified Clinical/Sport Psychologist

    Member, Association for Applied Sport Psychology
    Member, American Psychological Association, Exercise and Sport Psychology Division
    Diplomate, National Institute of Sports Professionals
    Certification in Clinical & Sports Hypnosis, ASCH
    Diplomate, American Academy of Behavioral Medicine

    1-800-497-9880 (949) 481-5027 (Fax)

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  8. Jack Singer 21 Mar 2013 |

    Hello Joseph:

    You are obviously a very compassionate man and you are correct that I should empathize with Dr. Samuels. My issue is that he should never have put himself in this position without doing a thorough evaluation and preparing properly.

    Dr. Jack

  9. Dr Tony Sabatasso 21 Mar 2013 |

    Dr Singer, Thank you for clarifying our respective place in the public’s eyes is a semi
    -retired seasoned clinical and forensic psychologist. I Have and would never place myself in these positions. Dr. Samuel s was trained in bio psychology at a place where standard clinical psychology is foreign and it shows in all he has done.
    As a professional I don’t like the way he has actually lost control of the exchange of himself and Mr. Martinez one bit. That very exchange reveals his lack of ability to stand his ground and be his own man. It is for that very reason he has lost complete control of this examination.( perhaps reflecting the key motif of the Arias Case.) His casual unprofessional and informal style has obviously come back to bite him in the ass worldwide. I hope to meet him and use these moments to teach him and others HOW NOT TO DO an exam nor handle cross examination.
    I thank you for educating the public He does not represent the mainstream of forensic clinical psychologists. I have been in the field since 1968.Educating the public through the media is a responsibly we all have as psychologists.

  10. Tami 21 Mar 2013 |

    Dr. Jack, thank you for your input. Those of us that are watching the trial without a degree think he is way off track but, you confirmed it.I think you nailed it on this guy. Again Thank you.
    Regards,
    Tami

  11. Doug 21 Mar 2013 |

    Hi Dr. Jack, I concur with all of your colleagues that this Dr’s testimony is flawed. The question is, is the jury buying this? I think Juan Martinez is an outstanding prosecutor, extremely sharp and unwavering, just a true professional. This woman truly deserves the full, unblunted, force of the law. Thank you, Dr. Jack

  12. Mike Waddock 22 Mar 2013 |

    I’m glad you wrote about the testimony provided by Dr. Samuels as I have been wondering how others in the field have felt about his professional conduct. I have followed the proceedings closely and find myself incredulous with his diagnosis of Ms Arias as well as the method used in arriving at his conclusions. It is clear to me, that he is many things but impartial is certainly not one. He is incompetent, disorganized, blatantly biased, a hired gun and it appears he may be unethical as well. One only has to look at his website to understand that impartiality and an honest ethical evaluation were discarded quicker than the lies coming from Ms. Arias. I only hope “Mr” Samuels (he no longer deserves the recognition of Dr.) is investigated for ethical violations or perhaps “fraud”.

  13. Pingback: The Hired Gun Misfired!! | mainstreamfair

    [...] Giving All Professional Psychologists a Bad Name! [...]

  14. Faith 23 Mar 2013 |

    I was amazed watching this man on the stand after he stated his education. He struck me as unprepared,unethical,and very self-centered and disrespectful of JM and the court.
    I hold no degree in anything. I do however know how to recognize a fraud when I see one.
    Your take on him is right on the money. Thank you for a excellent article.

  15. Dr. Jack Singer 23 Mar 2013 |

    Thanks, Faith…it’s amazing the wide range of behaviors we see in our professionals, psychologists, physicians, lawyers, etc. Be well.

    Dr. Jack

  16. Dr. Jack Singer 23 Mar 2013 |

    Thanks, Doug..it’s hard to understand someone butchering a person when they never (apparently) committed any crime before. There is so much about predicting psychopatic behavior that we still do not understand. Thanks for your comments.

    Dr. Jack

  17. Dr. Jack Singer 23 Mar 2013 |

    Thanks, Tami….he is an embarrassment to all of us who practice forensic psychology.

    Be well. Dr. Jack

  18. Dr. Jack Singer 23 Mar 2013 |

    Thanks, Dr. S….I may have already responded to your note, but again, you are certainly on the money. I think Dr. Samuels has learned not to get involved in high profile cases and I doubt that any defense attorney would ask him to do so. This is really the definition of a hired gun. One good thing that comes out of this is that the tapes should be used in training forensic psychologists what NOT to do…I’m sure there will be many snippets of his testimony shown in Continuing Education courses for psychologists.

    Be well.

    Dr. Jack

  19. Dr. Jack Singer 23 Mar 2013 |

    Hi Tanya:

    He was obviously unprepared for the questioning, which is partially the fault of the defense attorneys. They have surely been down this road before and should have primed him for all that he would face in cross examination. He and the defense team look quite desperate. Be well, Tanya.

    Dr. Jack

  20. Dr. Jack Singer 23 Mar 2013 |

    Great way to put it!

    Dr. Jack

  21. Dr. Jack Singer 23 Mar 2013 |

    Thanks again, Faith….have a great weekend!

    Dr. Jack

  22. Joni DiMaggio 25 Mar 2013 |

    Dr. Singer,

    You probably have no idea the positive impact your article will produce nationwide with the general public who are watching this case closely. With your very honest and succinct evaluation of Samuels so called “expert” testimony you have eased the minds of thousands of people watching it and thinking they will never trust a clinical psychologist due to the bad impression he gives. Because, and with no disrespect intended here, it doesn’t take a degree to see right through this charlatan.

    And although, it has caused some doubt to your profession I believe it is temporary – thanks to you and a few other psychologists who take their oath seriously and have come forward and explained the truth about this man’s (I cannot bring myself to call him ‘doctor’) expert testimony. You have put it into the correct perspective of what it really is. My only hope is that this article will become as viral as Richard Samuels infamous testimony has.

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