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Options for Retractors

Retractors are people who came to believe that they had been the victim of childhood physical, sexual, or ritual abuse and later realized that this was not true. If you are a retractor, congratulations on escaping from the trap of the memory recovery movement! Your success is a beacon of hope for the families still split by junk science, pop psychology, and mental health malpractice. Your wisdom in recognizing the mistake and your courage in admitting it speak to the quality of your character.

In reflecting on what has happened, do not be overly hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, but many people lack the courage to admit their own errors, even though mistakes are only a sign of human fallibility. As Jonathan Swift observed, "A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday."

I am not a retractor. I am lucky because I always knew that I had loving parents. Not everyone is so fortunate. Not having gone through your experience, I would not presume to tell you what you should do. That is something which only you can decide. Every person's situation is different. You will have to find a path that fits your personal health, circumstances, means, and beliefs.

This page is intended only to provide you with information about things that some retractors have chosen to do after reflecting on their experience. It is only intended to be a source of ideas. I am not implying that you have an obligation to do any of the things on this list. Indeed, in many cases, there may be legal or health reasons that prevent you from taking a particular action or make it dangerous or unwise. Each person's situation is different.

Before I share any of the things that some retractors have done, I need to state a couple of disclaimers.

Legal disclaimer: I am not an attorney. I am not able to provide legal advice, and nothing on this site attempts to do so. I strongly urge you to contact an attorney immediately, regardless of who you are, what your situation is, or whether or not you are considering taking action of any kind. An attorney can advise you about your legal rights and responsibilities under the laws of your state, and can tell you how much time you have to make a decision before various statutes of limitations expire. An attorney can also advise you about the legal risks of any action you may be considering. Believe it or not, if you report a therapist to a state licensing board, the therapist may be able to sue you for libel or other reasons, so be careful no matter what you do or don't do, and seek professional legal advice first!

Medical disclaimer: I am not a health professional of any kind. I cannot provide medical, psychological, or psychiatric advice, and nothing on this site attempts to do so. If you are experiencing symptoms of any physical or mental illness (including but not limited to depression and self-destructive thoughts or behavior), see a medical doctor (M.D.) immediately for an evaluation and diagnosis and a discussion of what further steps, if any, may be appropriate. If you are feeling suicidal, go to the nearest hospital emergency room immediately for an evaluation. Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms of illness, regular medical checkups are important for maintaining your physical and mental health, so if you haven't seen a doctor recently, schedule an appointment.

Again, I must emphasize that this list is for informational purposes only. Do not take any legal or medical risks. See a medical doctor and an attorney before you do anything or before (through the passage of time and the statute of limitations) you lose the opportunity to do something you may wish to.

Speaking as a brother who has been falsely accused on the basis of so-called "repressed memories," let me put in a special plea on behalf of family members in my situation: if you haven't gotten in touch with your family yet, please do! So many siblings, parents, grandparents, and relatives are desperate for any contact and would welcome a letter, phone call, or visit. I certainly would. Understandably, this is often difficult for a person who once believed that their family members committed crimes and who may have let them know of this belief or have avoided contact for many years. Understandably, those family members may be upset about what happened. But I believe that most family members, like myself, are eager for reconciliation and communication, not recrimination or isolation. Life is short, people don't live forever, and opportunities not seized are often lost forever. I read of one retractor who didn't feel able to contact her family for two years after she realized that her "memories" were not real. I understand how difficult it may seem to get in touch, but by all means, please do. Having read the stories of some families whose tragedy had a happy ending, I'm pleased to report that rebuilding a happy life together is often far easier than it seems before you try.

Here is a list of steps that some retractors have taken after reflecting on their personal experience, their health, their financial resources, and (often) their desire to see that other people are not misled and that other families are not split by bad therapy, junk science, pop psychology, and the myth of memory recovery therapy.

The following actions are options for all retractors, whether their false memories developed during therapy or as a result of reading the suggestive, misleading literature of the memory recovery movement.

  • Some choose to learn more about the problem to understand its causes. (See the lists of resources on this site for more information.)
  • Some subscribe to the free Retractors' Voice newsletter (published by and for retractors) to learn about the experiences of other retractors. (Email your postal address to the publisher at to subscribe.)
  • Some choose to network with other retractors to share experiences and offer each other support. (If you would like to link up with other retractors in your area, send us your email and city/metropolitan area of residence and we'll try to help you find others.)
  • You may choose to tell us your story for possible online publication to help educate others about the problem. On the advice of legal counsel, all identifying information will be removed from any stories or quotes we publish on this site. (Click here to learn how to submit your story.)
  • Please help warn people about the danger before they are deceived and their family is shattered! Print 10 copies of this flier and post them on the public notice boards at your local supermarkets and shopping malls!
  • If you feel that The Courage to Heal played a role in the development of your false memories, you may choose to write Ellen Bass and Laura Davis at the address they provide in their book for feedback and tell them about your experience. (Warning: consult an attorney first! Any information you provide could be subject to discovery in a legal proceeding, might compromise a suit you choose to file against a therapist, and might be grounds for a libel suit against you.)
  • Did suggestive books play a role in the development of your false memories? Use our Write a Book Review page to submit online reviews for publication at and Our Write a Book Review page makes it easy--just click the links and type! You can make a difference by warning book buyers about the danger of suggestive books and writing positive reviews of good books!
Some retractors whose false memories developed during therapy have chosen to do one or more of the things on this list. Again, I strongly urge you to consult an attorney before taking any of the actions on this list. Any action can have legal risks. I have highlighted some of the potentially riskiest actions with the phrase "(Warning: consult an attorney first!)", but all actions on this list may entail some degree of legal risk. Before doing anything, consult an attorney for an evaluation of your particular situation.
  • Some choose to network with other former clients of the same therapist to compare experiences, offer each other support, and consider supporting each other in any action taken. (If you would like to link up with other retractors in your area, click here.)
  • Some choose to discuss the therapist confidentially with the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. (Click here for contact information, including the toll-free phone number to get a free information packet and report form.)
  • Some choose to demand that the therapist immediately return the fees which were paid for therapy which was undertaken without informed consent, grounded in false, incomplete, or misleading information, or performed without advising the client of the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the methods used. (Warning: consult an attorney first!)
  • If the therapist is licensed as a medical doctor, psychologist, counselor, social worker, or other mental health provider, some choose to file a complaint with the therapist's state licensing board. (Warning: consult an attorney first!) Interested? Read our list of professional licensing boards by state.
  • If the therapist is unlicensed and the therapy performed fits the definition under state law of "practicing medicine without a license" or "practicing psychology without a license," some choose to file a report with the state's Board of Medicine or Board of Psychology. (Warning: consult an attorney first!)  Interested? Read our list of professional licensing boards by state.
  • Some may use their state's Freedom of Information Act to obtain information about the therapist. One family in Michigan writes:

  • Does your state have a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?   Our state does (Michigan), and last year I wrote to the state requesting info on our accusing daughter's therapist.  The Chief Freedom of Information Officer responded, giving me info on her licensing status and whether any disciplinary action had been taken against her.  He also acknowledged receiving my allegation against her which I had submitted.  He sent me a copy of her licensing file and the rules and regulations regarding social workers in the state of Michigan.  The department took no further disciplinary action in this matter, and claimed an exemption from release of further info as this release would constitute an unwarranted invasion of the licensee's privacy.


  • Some join the False Memory Syndrome Foundation or subscribe to its printed newsletter to support education and research related to the problem and the reconciliation of affected families and to keep current on the latest developments.
  • Some choose to educate others to prevent future tragedies by speaking to groups of mental health providers, high school and college students, Parent-Teacher Associations, and other public forums. (Warning: consult an attorney first!)
  • Some choose to contact their local newspaper and radio and TV stations and:
    • interest the media in doing a news report about their personal experience or memory recovery therapy in general to raise public awareness of problem. (Warning: consult an attorney first!)
    • tell their story as a letter to the editor, op-ed piece, or human interest story.  (Warning: consult an attorney first!)
  • Some choose to picket the therapist's office to warn others of the danger. (Warning: consult an attorney first!)
  • Some choose to take legal action to seek compensatory and punitive damages and reduce the risk that an ignorant, irresponsible, or incompetent therapist will harm others.  (Warning: consult an attorney regarding your options!)

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