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Dr Alexandra Pentaraki, Q & A
- Mar 1, 2023
- Latest Journal
In the following Question and Answer piece, we interview Dr Alexandra Pentaraki BA, MSc, Ph.D., CPsychol, AFBPsS - Clinical Psychologist & Neuropsychologist for children and adults - Lecturer - Registered Expert Witness in Greek, European Courts & in The International Criminal Court, The Hague, and The United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals about her work as a clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist and as an expert witness in many varied cases and the founding of Brain Matters Institute an Ιnstitute dedicated to the practice, learning and promotion of psychological science for the benefit of society and The Global Institute for Children's Drawings which is dedicated to the study of children's drawings and the assessment of children's drawings internationally such as the assessment of children’s personality, family relationships, school and social relationships, neurodevelopment, potential abuse and neglect, counseling and therapeutic interventions, identifying fake drawings.
Q1 How did you become a clinical psychologist/ neuropsychologist?
‘It was my love of knowledge that first sparked my interest in psychology,’ I also wanted to research the psychological factors relating to mental health conditions to find possible treatments. As I was studying more in-depth clinical psychology I was impressed about the enormous contribution of psychology as a scientific discipline to justice.
Q2 When did you move into expertwitness work and what sort of cases have you been involved in?
I moved into expert witness work in 2017 working as a Registered Expert Witness in Greek and European courts and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I am also working as a Technical Adviser and Expert Witness in Private cases. Here, my expertise helps with psychological and neuropsychological profiling, detecting child abuse and neglect ,custody, neurodevelopment and crime, syndrome of parental alienation, false allegations of child and adult abuse, malingering, false memory syndrome, international child abduction to child soldiers and rape to those who have been subjected to violence and trauma. I testify in criminal and civil cases, assess the suspect/accused and victims, provide my opinion, write reports, and prepare witnesses for testifying in the court. I am particularly proud that my work has helped protect dozens of children from further abuse and maltreatment.
Q3 Amongst your many cases what has been the most memorable?
Two cases that involve child sexual abuse andtorture by a parent. The first case was about a 4 year old child that was severely abused sexually by her father (without penetration) and her mother knew it and she did not do anything about it. After my assessment and reporting to the court there was an International emergency warrant for the father’s arrest who left Greece. It was also significant to me that the child draw a person (herself actually) that gave me many indications that she was abused. The second case involved, after my assessment and investigation, the detection and revelation of a father who was sexually abusing (without penetration) and torturing physically his 4 year old daughter. The father also threatened me. Ι had also cases that after analyzing the children’s drawings I provided evidence to the court that the drawings were fake as they were not drawn by the child but by an adult.
Q4 How do you manage the emotional side of your work?
I try to relax mentally and physically after work and I feel satisfied and proud that my work helps and protects children and adults. This satisfaction helps me to continue my important work.
Q5 How did you come to found the Brain Matters Institute and what are its aims
I wanted to develop a body dedicated to the practice, learning and promotion of psychological science for the benefit of society as I found out both in Greece and abroad that psychology as a science could contribute significantly to children’s and adult’s well-being. It’s aim is to develop and promote the ethical and evidence-based practice of psychological science. The Institute also offers many online and onsite courses for professionals that want to expand their existing clinical skills as well as courses and talks for the general public. Another aim of the Institute is the publication of books, translation, adaptation and development of psychometric tests and research.
Q6 What is The Global Institute for Children's Drawings?
The Global Institute for Children’s Drawing is one of my recent developments. Drawing is essential to children’s development and promotes healing. Additionally, drawing helps in the assessment of children and adults enormously. The aim of the Institute is a) to provide, internationally, evidence-based assessments of children’s (including adults’ drawings) drawings that assist in the understanding of children’s personality, emotional development, family dynamics and relationships, school and social relationships, gender development as well as case of abuse and neglect; assessments that can help the family, institutions, and courts, b) research in children’s drawings and publication of scientific papers, c) to propose a therapeutic planning if it is necessary, d) provide counselling to parents about issues that their child is dealing with, e) identify fake drawings.
Q7 How has this been used in expert testimony /reports?
Except from an in-depth psychological assessment and investigation that is based on a evidence-based scientific methodology that I have developed and use accordingly in each case, I also use drawings as part of my assessment of children and adults. I also use specific standardized reliable and valid psychometric tests that use drawing as an assessment method of various issues. There is evidence that is derived from studies that show the significance of using drawings in psychological assessments that will be used in the court. Also, the identification of fake drawings assist courts enormously especially in cases of false allegations of sexual abuse and neglect.
Q8 What developments (if any) would you like to see in the field of clinical psychologist/neuropsychologist witness work?
I want to see more research in psychometric testing that is used for the courts and more in-depth and better training for psychologists in psychological assessments and reporting. It is not enough to support that the x,y,z test is good for the court, you need to justify that it is valid and reliable in the respective topic that you investigate. In my field I am constantly seeing psychological assessments that are not based on scientific evidence that is reliable and valid. I also see psychological reports that are not reporting the results appropriately. I also want to see the police and courts to take into consideration the fact that witnesses and especially children must not be subject to many and repeated psychological assessments as this practice affects their memory and reduces their creditability, among other things.
About Dr Pentaraki