R. Christopher Barden, Ph.D., J.D., LP
NATIONAL PRESS RELEASE June 19, 1998
A psychological malpractice lawsuit which was scheduled to go to trial June 29 in Ramsey County District Court has been settled out of court for $175,000.
Renee Fredrickson, a nationally known St. Paul, Minn., psychologist and author of a book on repressed memories, paid the sum to a former client who accused Fredrickson of implanting false memories of childhood sexual abuse.
The lawsuit alleged Fredrickson used hypnosis, dream interpretation, guided imagery, suggestion and other methods to implant terrifying false memories of incest and ritual cult abuse.
Fredrickson, who wrote "Repressed Memories: a Journey to Recovery from Sexual Abuse," denied any wrongdoing in the settlement announced Friday by the plaintiff's attorneys, William Mavity of Bloomington and R. Christopher Barden of North Salt Lake City, Utah.
"This is yet another sign of the end of the recovered memory therapy movement," said Barden, a psychologist as well as an attorney who has sued therapists across the U.S. for allegedly implanting false childhood abuse memories.
Mary Sommerfeld of Arden Hills, Minn., and her husband James sued Fredrickson for malpractice in April 1997. Barden said his clients settled out of court because Fredrickson's total malpractice insurance coverage was capped at $200,000. The Sommerfelds also filed a complaint against Fredrickson with the Minnesota Board of Psychology in February 1997. That complaint is still under investigation.
The Sommerfelds said they wanted to warn the public about the danger of recovered memory therapy. "Memory recovery techniques have the potential to create vivid images of abuse that never happened," said Mary Sommerfeld. "This can result in false accusations that devastate families."
Mary Sommerfeld, who saw Fredrickson for a 10 month period in 1994 and 1995, said therapists need to distinguish between long standing childhood abuse memories and recovered memories created in therapy.
"Childhood sexual abuse is known to be a widespread problem that needs to be addressed," said Mary Sommerfeld. "The creation of false memories in therapy is a separate problem that also needs to be solved."
Barden successfully sued former St. Paul psychiatrist Dr. Diane Humenansky in two false memory cases, receiving multi-million dollar jury awards in both cases.