Alan Kraut, Ph.D., Executive Director
American Psychological Society
PO Box 90457
Washington, DC  20090-0457

Dear Dr. Kraut:

I am writing to ask that the American Psychological Society 
form a working group and issue a statement about research findings 
regarding reported "repressed memories" of abuse, so-called "memory
recovery therapy," and the hazards of suggestion in psychotherapy.

As you know, the mental health industry was swept in the 80s and 90s 
by a fad of using untested techniques for "memory recovery" on the
theory that memories of abuse (even repeated, long-term, violent 
abuse over many years) had been "repressed" from conscious 
awareness by an unknown mechanism.  To this day, there is no 
methodologically sound scientific evidence to support the existence 
of "massive repression."  Moreover, a study by Elizabeth Loftus has 
shown that the use of so-called "memory recovery therapy" harms 
clients and increases the rates of suicidal ideation, hospitalization,
and self-mutilation.

Despite the clear dangers proven by ruinous clinical experience,
American professional organizations have failed to issue clear, 
unambiguous, scientifically-based guidelines banning the use of 
these harmful techniques.  The contrast with the Royal College
of Psychiatrists in the U.K. is painful.  The Royal College
formed a Working Group on Reported Recovered Memories of Child 
Sexual Abuse and adopted the group's "Recommendations for Good 
Practice" as official practice guidelines.  These guidelines state
in part that "Psychiatrists are advised to avoid engaging in any  
'memory recovery techniques' which are based upon the expectation  
of past sexual abuse of which the patient has no memory. Such  
'memory recovery techniques' may include drug-mediated interviews,  
hypnosis, regression therapies, guided imagery, 'body memories',  
literal dream interpretation and journaling."  The failure of 
American organizations to issue equivalent guidelines silently 
condones the continued use of these harmful, discredited 
techniques in the U.S. and the continued abuse of clients and their
families by irresponsible therapists.

This failure has not gone unnoticed.  In their report "Recovered 
Memories of Childhood Sexual Abuse: Implications for Clinical
Practice" in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Sydney Brandon 
et al note that "the polarisation of views and fierce controversy
within the American psychiatric community was in danger of bringing
psychotherapy into disrepute."  Evaluating the statements issued 
by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological
Association, and the American Medical Association, Brandon further 
notes that "In their efforts to remain impartial they have failed
to resolve the impasse between research and clinical observation."

The American Psychological Society is uniquely positioned to help
break this logjam of professional indifference and conflict of 
interest.  From its founding it has been a principled voice for the
importance of scientific research on psychology and the application
of research findings in clinical practice and public policy.  If 
the APS issues a position statement on research findings about 
the theory of "memory repression" and the use of "memory recovery"
techniques, the American Psychological Association and American
Psychiatric Association will be forced to update their own  
statements and to issue guidelines similar to those issued by the 
Royal College.  If they do not, their sacrifice of patient safety 
on the altar of professional self-interest will be obvious to all.

It is not too late for your organization to reform your
profession and reduce the risk of future malpractice and injustice.
In order to protect clients and their families from the use of 
demonstrably harmful "therapies," please take the following steps at

1. Form an official working group to issue a statement on 
   "recovered memories" of childhood abuse by evaluating the Royal 
   College's "Recommendations for Good Practice" and adopting them 
   as binding practice guidelines for your own membership.  These 
   guidelines can be found online at:

2. Revise your code of ethics to make it mandatory for your 
   organization's members to inform clients about the known risks, 
   benefits, and alternatives to any proposed therapy and to gain 
   their informed consent prior to beginning therapy.

3. Following the example of the Canadian Psychological Association,
   publicly call for a government review of all convictions which   
   were based on so-called "repressed memory" testimony.

Please act now to protect patients and their families from the
irresponsibility of your colleagues who would ignore research 
findings and instead base clinical practice on myth and superstition.