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The Courage to Heal Debunked

An Online Critical Review

The Courage to Heal is the most harmful work of slander, ignorance, and lies since The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The Malleus Maleficarum. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion spread lies about Jews, saying that they ate Christian children and committed other atrocities, and it became the basis for hundreds of years of pogroms. The Malleus Maleficarum spread fear of witches, saying that they "copulate with Devils" and "Offer New-born Children of Devils," and it became the basis for hundreds of years of witch hunts.

Proving that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, The Courage to Heal follows in the footsteps of these sordid works of suspicion, conspiracy, and paranoia by teaching women to blame all problems on repressed memories of abuse, even if a woman has no memory of ever being abused by anyone, and even though there is no evidence that repressed memories exist! Like the works that preceded it, The Courage to Heal has triggered an epidemic of false accusations and shattered lives, this time aimed at mothers, fathers, brothers, uncles, and grandparents instead of Jews or "witches."

Cleverly written, The Courage to Heal appears at first glance to be a compassionate work dedicated to easing the suffering of victims of abuse. And the authors no doubt thought they were doing a public service by writing it, just as the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum thought they were doing a public service by warning the public about the danger posed by witches. Only a comparison of the claims made and the techniques recommended in The Courage to Heal against principles of medical ethics, the Bill of Rights, and our current scientific understanding about the functioning of human memory reveals The Courage to Heal to be the catastrophe of ignorance, irresponsibility, and injustice that it is.

The Courage to Heal is grounded in total ignorance of research findings about the functioning of human memory. That should be no surprise. Its authors by their own admission have no training, education, or license to diagnose or treat mental illnesses. But as the old saying goes, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," and the authors of The Courage to Heal confidently promote their book as a tool for recovering from repressed memories of abuse that must have occurred--even if there is no evidence and a woman has no recollection of ever being abused. Would you allow an amateur with no medical training to operate on your heart? Of course not! Why, then, would any sensible person allow two amateurs to operate on her mind? The dangers are just as great. If you don't think so, read the retractor stories on this site.

The Courage to Heal encourages the simpleminded, scientifically illiterate misconception that the explanation for symptoms of unhappiness, depression, and almost any other complaint must be the presence of repressed memories, and invites women to rewrite their entire life and family histories around this belief. Would you invest your entire life savings based on the theory of cold fusion? Of course not. Yet The Courage to Heal encourages women to rewrite their entire life histories based on another theory, massively and spontaneously repressed memories, for which there is no more evidence than cold fusion.

Trampling on the sacred American principle that the accused should be innocent until proven guilty, The Courage to Heal encourages women in crisis to appoint themselves detective, judge, jury, and executioner, with a preexisting implicit assumption that current problems must be the result of past abuse, and that if any abuse occurred then their own "family of origin" must be directly or indirectly responsible. It totally ignores basic issues like personal bias, therapist bias, the power of suggestion, the vulnerability of human memory to ordinary forgetting and interference by information learned later, the possibility for a person to be mistaken, and the existence of multiple possible causes for any particular problem, the true source of which can only be determined through investigation and corroboration. Would you abolish the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and allow victims of crimes to hold trials in absentia of those they thought guilty, with no right to face the acccuser, no right to representation, no presumption of innocence, and the victim acting alone as judge, jury, and executioner? Of course not. Yet therapists using The Courage to Heal do the same thing every day and call it "therapy" instead of the human rights violation that it is. Are you scared yet? You should be. Remember, your family may be next.

Would you take large quantities of a drug which had never been tested for safety or effectiveness? Of course not! Yet The Courage to Heal encourages women to dive headfirst into the use of so-called 'memory recovery' techniques which have never been tested for safety and effectiveness.

Do you believe that therapists and pop psychology books like The Courage to Heal should encourage people to use therapy techniques without informing them of the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the therapy and getting the client's informed consent before beginning treatment? Of course not! Ever since the Nuremburg Convention, patients have had the right to be fully informed about risks, benefits, and alternatives to treatment--and to give or deny informed consent--before becoming the subject of a human experiment. Yet therapy conducted without first obtaining informed consent is epidemic in the mental health industry today, and The Courage to Heal has been in the vanguard of this injustice, promoting techniques such as hypnosis, age regression, dream interpretation, journalling, the reading of suggestive literature, listening to graphic tales told by other 'Survivors' in group therapy, and other techniques, all without ever once warning readers and patients of the risks of these techniques and the complete lack of testing for safety and effectiveness!.

The results of this total disregard for scientific research, medical ethics, and human and constitutional rights have been predictable and catastrophic. The Courage to Heal has become the 'Bible' of the memory recovery movement. Selling hundreds of thousands of copies, it has filled every reader's mind with claims that are false or misleading and a misplaced confidence in theories for which there is no evidence and methods which have never been tested for safety or effectiveness. It has poisoned therapists' offices across the country and more than any other book helped trigger the tidal wave of false accusations of repressed memories of abuse that swept the United States in the 80s and 90s. Retractors--people who came to believe in recovered memories of abuse and later realized their mistake--overwhelmingly report that this book played a key role in the development of their false memories. (Read the retractor quotes in this section of the site.) The Courage to Heal has been implicated in over half the cases of False Memory Syndrome reported to the False Memory Syndrome Foundation in Philadelphia.

Without doubt, The Courage to Heal may have been genuinely helpful to some actual victims of abuse--those who always remembered their abuse and who did not develop false memories after reading it. In the same way, Thalidomide was genuinely helpful to some pregnant women for treating nausea--those whose babies were not deformed by its side effects. Memory recovery therapy as promoted by The Courage to Heal is the Thalidomide of the mental health industry. Even though Thalidomide can relieve nausea during pregnancy, its use is banned today because the harmful side effects are unacceptable, and the first rule of healing is "first, do no harm." In the same way, the use of so-called memory recovery therapy should be banned because its harmful side effects are unacceptable.

By the way, there's one key difference between Thalidomide and memory recovery therapy. Controlled clinical studies have shown that Thalidomide is effective for relieving nausea. However, there are no controlled clinical studies which show any evidence that so-called memory recovery therapy is in fact effective for treating anything, and there never will be, because with what is known already about the harmful side effects of memory recovery therapy, it would be unethical to perform human experiments to test it. The irony, of course, is that although it would be unethical to perform a controlled human study of memory recovery therapy, irresponsible therapists actually apply so-called memory recovery techniques in a completely ad-hoc, uncontrolled fashion on individual patients every day, often at taxpayer or health insurer expense! What would be illegal in a university or medical experiment is in use in therapy rooms nationwide every day!

A hundred years from now, The Courage to Heal will be regarded with the same horror with which we today regard The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and The Malleus Maleficarum. The repressed memory witch hunt it triggered will be regarded with the same fear and loathing with which we today remember pogroms against Jews, the witch hunts of medieval Europe and Salem, and McCarthyism of the fifties. But the victory of science and medical ethics over superstition and amateurism has not yet happened. The Courage to Heal is still being used in therapists' offices today. The injustice goes on!

Protect yourself and your family by arming yourself with knowledge. Read about the scientific illiteracy, trampling of constitutional rights, and advocacy of guilt by accusation which permeate The Courage to Heal:

Remember, no one else will protect you, and your family may be next.

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