Statement of Carol Marks, MFCC, for Launch of StopBadTherapy.com
I am Carol Marks, a licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor in private practice in San Jose, Ca. since 1974. For the past 13 years I have been working with a very unique population in addition to my regular clients... hundreds of people who have been falsely accused of child abuse, most particularly, child sexual abuse. Because of my interest in developing expertise in the field of child abuse, and suggestibility, leading and coercive questioning leading to tainted testimony, false beliefs and false memories in accusers, and the attendant pain and suffering and disillusionment of the falsely accused, I became increasingly alarmed by what is popularly referred to as recovered memory therapy.
I have spent countless hours with families of accusers, who have done nothing more serious than the usual parenting errors, or in fact loved their children well and in a healthy way. These adult children, the accusing patients were frequently the golden children in their families and have shocked their families and friends by their aberrant behavior, as well as their bizarre and ludicrous claims of severe and horrific sexual abuse... abuse that somehow they had all forgotten until their memories were jogged in therapy. It is here where my outrage is the greatest.
Members of my professional community in their zeal to help their clients recover long buried memories have instead led these very clients to lives of sheer hell, to removal from their family constellations, to such severe dysfunction in most cases, or, at the least, to a life of delusion and isolation from family. We, as therapists, are supposed to work toward helping people become more functional, not less, and to resolving issues with other family members, if there are some present, not confront, isolate, and sever all connections with them.
There is nothing in our good training that would encourage a psychotherapist to eliminate the support of a loving family or encourage clients to eliminate their family from their life. I have heard of the dictum "divorce your family of origin: adopt your family of choice." I am sickened by the very thought, and horrified at the notion that that philosophy is designed to heal a patient. In the most severely abusing family, with no chance at resolution or change, I can understand the concept of becoming self sufficient, understanding the limitations of the family members, and separating for the best possible chance of leading a healthy, functional life. But we are today discussing this phenomenon in good families with no true history of abusive behavior.
How tragic to be taught to rewrite a happy childhood into one of pain and abuse. I fail to understand how that could do anything but cause the severe decline that we do see in patients who have adopted the false beliefs that they were victims of intense and serious abuse. I believe that what we have learned is "how to create mental illness" in otherwise mentally healthy people. Perhaps that can be our lesson from all of this. But the price in human suffering is still too staggering.
It had always been my belief that our profession based its performance on a "first do no harm" tenet, but it seems that nothing could be further from the truth. It is with outrage and shame that I condemn other mental health professionals who have assumed the worst about their patients' families and then done their best to convince those very patients that they are victims of severe abuse. History has already shown us that treatment, once down this road, is long, expensive, arduous, severely harmful, and often is the basis of severe mental illness.
Additionally, each patient has a family that is drawn into the quagmire and suffers incredible pain and confusion. Families are accused without a forum to provide an answer or claim a legitimate defense against the outrageous charges. And I can assure you that every family that experiences the severe loss of a loved child and previously viable family member may never fully recover. And, even if recovery does occur, the years devoted to the suffering can never be given back. They are gone and so is the innocence of family love.
Our professional associations have been slow to come to the table to take a stand that needs to be taken to protect the public. That, after all, is our mandate and that of our licensing boards. I urge the various boards that license the mental health professionals to join with the Royal College of Psychiatrists and issue a bold statement like the one that you have been handed today.
The web site that is being launched today is the work of a devoted brother, a caring and responsible human being, and a bright, creative man who has converted his pain and outrage to action. I commend Eric Krock for his long hard work and for his actualizing a much needed service.