Psychologist and witness in Couch trial regrets 'affluenza' wording

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on December 13, 2013 at 9:31 PM

BEDFORD -- The psychologist at the heart of the controversial Ethan Couch fatal DWI case says he never intended the word “affluenza” to be taken as a diagnosis.

"This kid had medical problems. He had social anxiety disorder. He had all sorts of things. He had depression," said psychologist G. Dick Miller, Ph.D. "He found alcohol was his medicine."

Miller has one major regret from his testimony supporting probation for 16-year-old Ethan Couch.

"I think that term, 'affluenza,' which I was just using to describe what we used to call 'spoiled brats,'” he said.

That word has earned him scorn from some peers.

"It's not a diagnosis,” Miller said from his home Friday. “The diagnosis was something completely different."

His use of the term, and the result of his testimony have earned him disdain from the public.

"I have 110 phone calls that have come in. Some threats,” Miller said. “Someone got my unlisted number. He said 'I've killed four people. I wouldn't mind killing five.'"

He figures he spent 50 hours with Ethan Couch and his parents, starting the day after the teen killed four people and paralyzed another while driving fast and very drunk.

Miller said Couch showed no emotion in court because he has learned not to show emotion; a defense mechanism for dealing with his parents.

"All of it got to him,” Dr. Miller said. “He just didn't show it, because when he showed it, he had bad consequences at the house."

The key defense witness now defends his own reputation, and Judge Jean Boyd's decision to sentence Couch to therapy, including  a year of complete separation from his parents. Miller said his job was to design a therapy curriculum that Couch couldn’t get in the juvenile justice system.

"He'll see his mother every few days if he goes to the penitentiary. He'll see his relatives. People will feel sorry for him,” Miller said. “Right now, the consequences are he's a monster. He's going to have to peel that onion back. Every day, we're going to put it in his face. And for the rest of his natural life, he'll have to deal with that. Those are consequences."

He knows most people don't see it that way; those reacting to the sentence, and especially those who've lost so much to Ethan Couch.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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