Dr. Stuart Greenberg’s Ethical Misconduct Leads to Own Suicide

A recent article brings the severely distorted ethical and psychological life of the late Stuart Greenberg, renowned psychologist, back into the spotlight. Although it has been nearly four years since the suicide of the expert witness, many of those whose lives he affected remember the actions he took as if it were yesterday. For decades Greenberg held the futures of children in his hands as he testified to the psychological state of the parents who fought for their custody. He was directly responsible for information juries would use to determine guilt or innocence in sexual assault cases and gave specific details that would impact monetary rewards. Greenberg had a professional and social stronghold in the courts and knew that his testimony was never challenged and was deemed credible, in part due to his impeccable presence as a consummate performer. That was, until one determined mother, Cathy Graden, fought back. She sued after revealing that Greenberg had distorted reports and created misleading allegations, deeming her unfit to raise her four year old son and costing her custody. After years of litigation, the state Examining Board of Psychology eventually levied disciplinary charges against the psychologist, and prohibited him from conducting parenting evaluations for three years.

But even though Greenberg was eventually found guilty of gross ethical violations and professional misconduct, he still managed to amass a fortune of nearly $2 million and hold a teaching position at the University of Washington, all while charging thousands to testify in court and give peer lectures. Because the records of his violations weren’t sealed, his testimony was challenged in one case involving the Air Force, and he took action to have the courts seal his record in order to protect his reputation. Incredibly, due to a simple oversight in the document preparation, the Examining Board of Psychology, along with the state Attorney General’s Office, agreed to go against the public records requirements, and denied public access to his records. Before the year was out, Greenberg was again getting paid handsomely to tout the ethics of parenting evaluations to other psychologists. The hypocrisy even pervaded the American Psychological Association when they asked him to lecture on “The Liability and Immunity of the Expert Witness,” after Greenberg had successfully evaded civil action by Cathy Graden, the mother whose son had been removed after false allegations.

Greenberg’s downfall came by his own hand. Even among his own employees, there were rumors of sexual misconduct and generally bizarre behavior. It wasn’t until the secret video camera he had placed in the employee bathroom was discovered that the full extent of his problems was revealed. Stories began to surface about sexual impropriety and professional shortcomings. Abuse victims accused him of dismissing their claims and employees filed civil suits for the illegal videotaping in the restroom. Greenberg admitted to it all. Three weeks after he was arrested, he committed suicide in a hotel room. The same man who had been elected president of the American Board of Forensic Psychology and lectured at a conference entitled the Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychology, left a simple note that read: “I am inadequate. I just don’t know. I am sorry.” Greenberg had been in therapy for four years.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Chad

    Chad

    June 30th, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    wow I have never heard that story. That’s pretty compelling, and unfortunately probably more common than we know. I hate that he had to lose his life as a result, but good for that mom for finally standing up to the system that was more intent on listening to only one side of the story.

  • Susan

    Susan

    June 30th, 2011 at 11:30 PM

    Why is it that sometimes people who are experts in fixing something themselves suffer from the same things they fix and they continue with it and not get it fixed? It’s not the first time I’ve heard of a professional ring affected by something that he helps people deal with.

  • donna

    donna

    July 2nd, 2011 at 5:09 AM

    ^^happens at times and it’s only because anybody can be affected. it’s not like doctors are free of any ailment yeah?

    but people in the field should know better and take care of themselves better than other people.sometimes they end up misusing their profession but it doesn’t mean all are like that!

  • anne

    anne

    July 2nd, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    Wow I had never heard that before either.

  • jocelyn tennant

    jocelyn tennant

    July 2nd, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    @Chad. Having read that I would say he was a real scumbag and I’m glad that he’s not around to ruin any more lives. He was a liar and a creep, slandered people’s names and got their children taken from them because of his so-called professional testimony, and what does he get out of all of his trouble?

    Two million dollars and a teaching job.

    His apology does not excuse him for the lives he has ruined. Killing himself was probably the most positive thing he’d done in a long time.

  • lana

    lana

    July 3rd, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    karma does come back to get you after all

  • Y. Cormack

    Y. Cormack

    July 3rd, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    It’s sad that he died, but anyone who deliberately lies about anyone to harm their family is very low on the list of citizens who contribute to society. This man was given power to persuade on his word alone, and he abused it. Unfortunately the potential is there for his entire profession to be tarnished by these revelations undeservedly.

  • monique ray

    monique ray

    July 3rd, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    They should be filing some charges against those tried to protect his reputation. If you’re accused of a crime, then everything should be looked at by the law including who your accomplices or sympathizers were.

    I’m stunned the American Psychological Association asked him to do that lecture! Were they really so enamored by him? Unreal.

  • Bernard T.

    Bernard T.

    July 3rd, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    @Monique Ray-Who exactly are charges to be filed against? Read this part again. “Incredibly, due to a simple oversight in the document preparation, the Examining Board of Psychology, along with the state Attorney General’s Office, agreed to go against the public records requirements, and denied public access to his records.”

    Is the Attorney General going to file charges against themselves for obstruction? Or the EBP who did what they did with the Attorney General’s blessing?

    Sure they will. And pigs might fly.

  • Saffron F.

    Saffron F.

    July 4th, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    The coward didn’t want to face the music for all his misdeeds. A manipulator and swindler to the end apparently. He managed to dodge justice permanently.

    I feel bad for his family. They must feel totally humiliated by his crimes.

  • Shannon

    Shannon

    February 8th, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    Sadly, I believe that all of this is true. Regardless, the late Dr. Greenberg saved my life by removing me when I was young from a parent that to the rest of the world seemed decent, but who would have been detrimental to my well being. As a now successful adult, I cannot help but to be thankful for knowing this man, and to pity him for his inexcusable mistakes and for the fact that his mistakes have now overshadowed all the good he did.

  • Michael J.

    Michael J.

    July 15th, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    I went to high school with Stuart Greenberg and even though we’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, I just have to say that even back in the 60s, he was a jerk.

  • Rod S.

    Rod S.

    March 24th, 2016 at 11:51 PM

    I lost custody of my two boys because of him testifying that I was suicidal.I have no pity for him.He based that prediction completely on my answer to a question on the psychological test given to all who go through a custody battle.Have you ever thought of suicide.Yes or no answer only.I answered honestly,not saying I would do it .Who hasn’t thought of what it would be like.Another family ruined by that selfish pervert suported by our legal system.

  • Brian A

    Brian A

    December 10th, 2017 at 9:12 PM

    The people who worked for him are still in business, and making money off of children. The state of Washington learned nothing from his death… what so ever. I have got a letter produced to the DOH showing an investigator taking money right before a trial that includes time in private with one attorney helping them build a case. A judge saw this and did not blink.
    There are good people who do this work, it will take effort though to sort them out (and remember that everyone can make mistakes).
    Not everyone is taking money though to do trial prep with opposing council though.

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