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False Memory Syndrome, the Myth of Memory Repression, and the Role of Therapists
in Creating False Memories
Through Tears by Pamela Freyd and Eleanor Goldstein.
Just when I thought I couldn't stand to read one more book on bad therapy
and False Memory Syndrome, Pamela Freyd and Eleanor Goldstein have produced
a simply outstanding one. Smiling Through Tears is a collection
of twenty-five brief essays about the issues related to False Memory Syndrome
and the myth of repressed memories: the origins in suggestive therapy;
their promotion by radical gender feminists; the role of self-help books
in promoting misinformation to a wide audience; the legal turnaround in
which retractors are now suing the therapists at fault; and the overturning
of convictions based on supposedly "repressed and recovered" memories.
The essays are remarkably clear and concise; not a word in this book is
wasted, and nothing important has been left out. Smiling Through Tears
is the best concise introduction to the problem of False Memory Syndrome
I've read. Another unusual and creative aspect of this book is its use
of comic strips throughout to illustrate the humor, irony, and madness
in this epidemic of human tragedy and to keep an otherwise heavy topic
somewhat lighter. If you want to introduce the problem of False Memory
Syndrome to a friend, loan them this book.
of Memory: Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives by Mark Pendergrast
and Melody Gavigan.
A journalist who was accused by his daughters on the basis of "memories"
which were supposedly "recovered" during therapy, Pendergrast offers a
broad, comprehensive, and thoroughly researched overview of all aspects
of the memory recovery fraud. This was the first book I read after my sister's
own devastating accusations and it opened my eyes to the entire problem
and the scope of the damage that has been done. What makes this book unique
is the section of interviews with memory recovery therapists, believers,
retractors, and accused families which allows each group to tell its story
in its own voice. A must-read book for anyone who is affected by this epidemic.
(You can also visit the Victims
of Memory web site.)
Myth of Repressed Memory : False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse
by Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham.
Elizabeth Loftus has a Ph.D. in psychology and has spent much of her career
studying how memory works and can how it can be misled. This thoroughly
researched and well written book examines the theory of memory repression
from a scientific and research standpoint and demonstrates the complete
lack of evidence for the theories promoted by memory recovery afficionados.
Dr. Loftus's web site and read
this chapter about Eileen Franklin's "repressed memories". Her father,
George Franklin, was convicted of a murder which happened twenty years
earlier solely on the basis of Eileen's "repressed memories" of the event
which she had supposedly been unaware of for twenty years. George Franklin
spent years in prison, but his conviction has now been overturned and he
has filed suit against Lenore Terr, Ph.D. who testified for the prosecution
Monsters : False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria by Richard
Ofshe and Ethan Watters.
Making Monsters examines the false memory problem from a sociological
and historical perspective. In one particularly powerful passage, it notes
that the state of the mental health profession today is similar to the
state of the medical profession in the late nineteenth century. At that
time, there were both competent doctors who had taken training at medical
schools and travelling quacks peddling patent medicines. Consumers couldn't
tell the difference between the two or the remedies they offered, so the
entire profession suffered a bad reputation because of the abuses of untrained
amateurs and frauds. Only with the establishment of state licensing boards
were trained doctors able to differentiate themselves from the quacks,
gain control of the practice of medicine, drive the quacks out of business,
and secure their profession's reputation and consumers' health from injury.
Similarly, the mental health profession today ranges from licensed psychiatrists
offering antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy (both of which
have been tested for safety and effectiveness) to unlicensed, untrained
psychotherapists offering memory recovery therapy, past life regression,
and other harmful, fraudulent treatments.
Ethan Watters has kindly given permission for StopBadTherapy.com to
reproduce online this book's appendix "Three
Papers" which debunks three studies by Linda Williams, John Briere
and Jon Conte, and Judith Herman and Emily Schatzow.
Thoughts by Paul Simpson.
A Ph.D. psychologist, devout Christian, and former regression therapist
himself, Simpson is perhaps the only memory recovery therapist who has
ever had enough interest in his patients' welfare to thoroughly research
whether or not there is a scientific basis for so-called memory recovery
therapy. The discovery that there is neither a scientific nor religious
basis for regression therapy caused him to cease regression therapy, notify
his former clients that their "recovered memories" should not be considered
accurate or reliable, and rededicate himself to undoing the damage which
has been done by this epidemic of malpractice. Obviously, I have mixed
feelings about anyone who has ever been involved in the practices which
devastated my family. However, Simpson deserves credit for having the courage
to openly admit and document his mistake and for working to save others
from the same fate. Anyone can make a mistake, but to realize it takes
intelligence, to admit it takes courage, and to work to correct it takes
dedication. The book is of special interest to Christians (and anyone who
has been affected by church counselors practicing regression and memory
recovery) because Simpson also demonstrates that there is no basis in the
Bible for the beliefs espoused by regression therapists, and that in fact
these beliefs contradict everything Christianity teaches. Simpson's writing
style is clear, concise, and thought provoking.
Dr. Simpson has given StopBadTherapy.com permission to host the following
excerpts of his book online:
The Experiences of Families Caught in this Tragedy
Stories of False Memories by Eleanor Goldstein with Kevin Farmer.
This well-written, well-edited, and thought provoking book contains the
stories of eight retractors, eighteen siblings of accusers, and one account
each from a husband, daughter, and mother of accusers. In addition, it
contains chapters which trace the development of repressed memory hysteria
in America and the role of pop psychology books, talk shows, celebrities,
and irresponsible government officials in contributing to the panic. Seeing
how family after innocent family has been devastated by eerily similar
sequences of events helps a grieving family member realize that, as strange
as it may seem, accusations like this are "nothing personal" and just reflect
a vulnerable person's victimization by a destructive cult which explains
every problem with the same answer and prescribes the same disastrous "cure"
for every person. I strongly recommend that any affected family member
read these or other family stories to realize that you are not alone and
that tens of thousands of other good people have been hurt in the same
way. Visit the Upton
Books web site.
Creating False Memories, Destroying Families by Eleanor Goldstein with
Another excellent work from the Social Issues Resources Series. One wonders
how many books must be published about the damage done to families by bad
therapy before the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric
Association will issue a clear, courageous, principled, unqualified, unambiguous,
scientifically basied condemnation of so-called memory recovery therapy
and the quacks who practice it just as the Royal College of Psychiatrists
has done. In America, are the foxes in the chicken coop? Visit
the Upton Books web site.
Evidence : The Ramona Case : Incest, Memory, and Truth on Trial in Napa
Valley by Moira Johnston.
Johnston documents in meticulous detail the Ramona trial in which Gary
Ramona was accused of physical and sexual abuse on the basis of "repressed
memories" that were "recovered" during a therapy session on one of his
daughters which was conducted while she was under the influence of sodium
amytal. The charges against Gary Ramona were ultimately dismissed on the
narrow grounds that evidence obtained under the influency of sodium amytal
is inadmissable in court, so the courts missed an opportunity here to address
the larger questions of "repressed memories" and "memory recovery therapy"
in general, but Mr. Ramona successfully sued his daughter's therapists
and won over half a million dollars in a groundbreaking tort case that
strengthened the right of injured family members to sue an irresponsible
therapist. Johnston makes the timely observation that the Salem witch trials
weren't halted until "Spectral Evidence" (claims of demonic possession
and the like) were ruled inadmissable as evidence. Similarly, the madness
of lawsuits and criminal trials based on "repressed memories" won't be
halted until "repressed memories" themselves are made inadmissable nationwide--something
that is rapidly taking place now as court after court rules them inadmissable
under the Daubert and Frye tests for the admissability of
scientifically-based expert testimony in the courtroom.
Fighting the Memory Recovery Movement's Influence Over a Loved One
Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan.
This book was recommended to me by a retractor to help understand what
cults are, how they influence people's thinking, and an indirect, nonconfrontational
way of raising doubts in a believer's mind and helping them free themselves
from the cult's influnce. Before I mention what is good about the book,
I need to warn prospective readers about some specific misinformation it
contains relating to psychology, memory, and satanic ritual abuse. The
book makes the following statements which are simply wrong:
"the mind does not erase previous memories" (p. 47) - On the contrary,
forgetting information (or failing to store it in the first place) is part
of the normal functioning of human memory. Read Loftus's
book for more information.
"Our memories of childhood form a vast storehouse which can be tapped
and exploited by hypnotic techniques .... Adults can easily be age-regressed
to a time when they had little or no critical faculties." (p.47) -
On the contrary, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated that "There
is no evidence that the use of consciousness-altering techniques, such
as drug-mediated interviews or hypnosis, can reveal or accurately elaborate
factual information about any past experiences including childhood sexual
abuse. Techniques of regression therapy including 'age regression' and
hypnotic regression are of unproven effectiveness." ( Reported
Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse: Recommendations for Good Practice
and Implications For Training, Continuing Professional Development and
Research . The College Psychiatric Bulletin (1997), 21, 663-665.)
On pages 93-94, Hassan accepts as fact the myth of organized satanic cults
and uncritically retells the usual stories of murder, animal sacrifice,
blood rituals, and so on. If you believe in such things, read FBI
Special Agent Kenneth Lanning's Report (available free online for downloading
or by written request) and Satanic Panic.
Finally, on page 194, Hassan states that people with Multiple Personality
Disorder (since renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder) "are shown
to have different brainwave patterns when they are 'in' each of their distinct
personalities. Any attempt by a person to merely give a good 'acting performance'
can be easily detected." He cites no source for this remarkable claim and
in fact there is no EKG or PET scan diagnostic test for DID (let alone
one which can distinguish which 'personality' a client is performing) and
the diagnosis itself is highly controversial.
Despite these specific flaws, Hassan's book provides much valuable information
and insight. A former cult member himself, Hassan explains the specific
techniques cults use to indoctrinate followers. He provides a useful definition
of a cult. He explains his nonconfrontational approach called "exit counseling"
for helping cult members free themselves from a cult's influence. He demonstrates
the similarities of different cults and shows how they indoctrinate and
exploit their members in similar ways, regardless of what their specific
declared beliefs may be. So long as the reader is aware of the specific
errors I noted, I recommend this book for gaining a better understanding
of cults and the ways they indoctrinate and influence members. I hope that
Hassan and his publisher will release a revised, corrected version someday
because the four pages I noted are exceptions in what is otherwise an excellent,
insightful, thought-provoking work, one that gave me a whole new viewpoint
for understand the so-called Memory Recovery Movement.
The Crisis of Malpractice, Ignorance, and Incompetence Among Mental Health
the Talking Cure : Psychotherapy May Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health
by Terence Campbell.
This book discusses the risks associated with psychotherapy and the harm
that ignorant or incompetent therapists can do to their clients. It an
afterword called "Hiring and Firing a Therapist", it includes a 40-question
checklist for evaluating a current or potential therapist. Any person considering
therapy should read both this book and What To Do When
Psychotherapy Goes Wrong. Remember, only you can protect yourself from
incompetent, ignorant, and unethical therapists. No one else will!
of Abuse: True and False Memories of Childhood Sexual Trauma by Michael
This book uses questionnaires filled out by mental health providers to
demonstrate that many practicing therapists are ignorant of or misunderstand
even basic facts about human memory and cognition. It also provides specific
advice for all the people who are affected by bad therapy: the client,
spouse, parents, siblings, children, and friends.
Dr. Yapko has given StopBadTherapy.com
permission to host the following excerpts of his book online:
Psychology: The Dark Side of a Mental Health Mission by Susan Smith.
Smith analyzes the belief system of self-proclaimed "survivors" who believe
they have recovered "repressed memories" of abuse during therapy. She also
documents the yawning ignorance of "true believer" therapists who teach
their clients myths, misconceptions, and meaningless jargon. One part of
her research was doing structured interviews of 38 practicing therapists
in the Phoenix, Arizona area; the interviews documented the therapists'
inability to even define terms like "body memories" and "cellular memory"
which were the cornerstones of their "repressed memory" belief system.
Upton Books and SIRS Mandarin have given
StopBadTherapy.com permission to host the following excerpts of this book
Victims : What the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People by Tana Dineen.
This book makes many important points about the crisis of fad-driven therapy,
untested treatment regimens, lack of standards of care, lack of informed
consent, conflict of interest, lack of regulation, and outright malpractice
in the mental health care industry today. Unlike other health care professionals,
mental health professionals have neither objective exams to confirm a particular
diagnosis nor agreed-upon treatment regimens for treating them. Therapists
may decide by themselves what constitutes illness, who is ill, how they
should be treated, how long treatment should continue, what constitutes
success, and when therapy should end. As a result, the possibility exists
than an unethical mental health practitioner will diagnose a condition
where none exists, encourage people to define day-to-day ups and downs
as a disease needing treatment, use treatment approaches that artificially
lengthen the course of therapy for financial gain, encourage dependency
in clients to ensure a steady income, and use treatment approaches which
have never been tested for safety and effectiveness. Dineen also notes
that the mental health profession should be analyzed as an industry which
like others has an economic incentive to create customers, expand its markets,
and ensure repeat business. Although I think Dineen takes a somewhat radical
position, her book is a desperately needed and conscientious wake-up call
to rouse the mental health organizations and practitioners who are currently
remaining passive in the face of rampant amateurism and incompetence and
damaging, unsafe "therapies" which would have been pulled from the market
years ago if they were drugs. The world needs more psychologists with Dineen's
unfliching introspection and honesty. (Visit the Manufacturing
Victims web site today!)
To Do When Psychotherapy Goes Wrong by Shirley J. Siegel.
This book should be required reading for anyone who is considering "therapy"
or "counseling." Its most important messages are the reminder that "Difficult
as it may be to accept, that highly-educated, well-dressed, imposing and
authoritative figure sitting across the desk from you is, after all, only
human ...", the warning that "Everyone entering therapy needs someone
to stand up and shout - 'HEY, WATCH OUT, PSYCHOTHERAPY MAY BE HAZARDOUS
TO YOUR HEALTH AND WELFARE!'", and the observation that "if there
is no state licensure, there is no state agency to whom one can bring a
complaint if counseling turns out to be abusive or unethical."
It reminds us all not to place blind trust in a person just because they
are a "therapist," "psychotherapist," "psychologist," or "psychiatrist."
It provides specific examples of some of the kinds of abuses that ignorant,
incompetent, unscrupulous, or mentally ill therapists have committed. Finally,
the book provides information about choosing a therapist, some characteristics
of good and bad therapists, and your options if a therapist has behaved
unethically. Shirley Siegel was a tireless crusader for clients' rights
as head of Stop Abuse By Counselors (she's now retired), and this book
is the culmination of her years of research, activism, and advocacy.
Like any book, this one is not perfect (Siegel is forthright about her
personal "bias" against psychiatry, which this site's author does not share),
but many tragedies could be prevented if every person considering "therapy"
or "counseling" would take the time to read this book first and realize
that clients must protect themselves from abuse and unethical behavior
because no one else will.
The Myth of Satanic Ritual Abuse
Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend by Jeffrey S. Victor.
Victor discusses the development of the urban legend of satanic ritual
abuse and the horrendous consequences when children, parents, therapists,
law enforcement personnel, judges, and others believe this myth.
Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory by Lawrence Wright.
Wright gives a detailed account of the Paul Ingram case. After a daughter
attended a religious retreat and accused him of abuse, Ingram felt that
his daughters would not tell a lie and, on the advice of his friends in
the police department and his pastor, began trying to recover memories
of abuse which he decided he must have repressed. A highly suggestible
individual, he developed false memories of committing abuse through intensive
self-hypnosis and prayer and ultimately confessed to involvement in a satanic
sex abuse ring. Once in prison and out of the influence of his friends
and the pastor, Ingram realized his mistake and recanted. However, he has
exhausted his appeals and has already served more than eight years of a
lengthly prison sentence for satanic sex ring crimes which simply never
Faddism, Pseudoscience, and Junk Science in America
Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan.
Sagan demonstrates that only a principled and disciplined insistence on
applying the scientific method can protect one from being deceived by all
kinds of myths, superstitions, urban legends, and pseudoscientific beliefs.
He defines a 'baloney detector' to help you notice when a claim 'smells
fishy,' and then explains how to apply the scientific to give people an
opportunity to prove their claims rigorously. He then uses case studies
of popular culture myths (including a brilliant chapter on satanic ritual
abuse and alien abduction!) to show how each one collapses when examined
with the scientific method. In this age of epidemic scientific, logical,
and mathematical ignorance, this book should be required reading for every
: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Media by Elaine Showalter.
This insightful and concise book traces the history of hysteria and the
role of doctors and the media in spreading psychosomatic illnesses. It
highlights the similarities between belief systems such as recovered memory,
satanic ritual abuse, multiple personality disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome,
and alien abduction. Showalter notes how in each case, objective scientific
evidence is lacking for the existence of the malady. People who believe
they are suffering from it nonetheless seek treatment from medical "specialists"
who give them the diagnosis they wish and offer them hope for a cure from
their symptoms. Credulous media reports promote anecdotal reports and spread
belief in the disorder without providing equal coverage for scientific
studies which document the lack of evidence for a specific condition and
suggest psychosomatic origins.
This otherwise excellent book is marred by two unfortunate factual
errors regarding the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. It states (incorrectly)
that the FMS Foundation is the publisher of a newsletter called The
Retractor which is actually published by retractors. It also states
that the FMS Foundation "wants to regulate the practice of psychotherapy
through a Mental Health Consumer Protection Act, which would require the
patient's informed consent ..." (p. 155) Such
legislation has been proposed by R. Chris Barden, not the FMS Foundation,
and is endorsed by StopBadTherapy.com. However, the FMS Foundation, a not-for-profit
educational and research foundation, has not taken an official position
on specific legislation.
to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff.
"Statistics Don't Lie." Ah, no more foolish words were ever spoken. People
lie with statistics and misuse statistics all the time, and unless you
are on constant guard against improper and selective use of statistics,
you will be deceived. This humorous book defines some common ways that
statistics are misused and explains how to spot them.
If you would like to have a book listed here, read
this site's policy on listing publications.
of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth by Robyn M. Dawes
and Peter David.
of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony and the Rape of American
Justice by Margaret A. Hagen.
Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? by by Margaret Thaler Singer
and Janja Lalich.
Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China
by Robert Jay Lifton.
Daughters: Recovered Memory Therapy and the People It Hurts by Reinder
Van Til and Reinder Van Til.
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