World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Recovered-memory therapy

Article Id: WHEBN0003794257
Reproduction Date:

Title: Recovered-memory therapy  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Memory, RMT, The Courage to Heal, Sture Bergwall, Rind et al. controversy
Collection: Hypnosis, Memory, Therapy
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Recovered-memory therapy

Recovered-memory therapy (RMT) is catch-all psychotherapy term for therapy using one or more method or technique for the purpose of recalling memories.[1] It does not refer to a specific, recognized treatment method, but rather several controversial and/or unproven interviewing techniques, such as hypnosis and guided-imagery, and the use of sedative-hypnotic drugs, which are presently rarely used in the responsible treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other dissociative disorders. Proponents of recovered memory therapy claim that traumatic memories can be buried in the subconscious and affect current behavior, and that these can be recovered. The term is not listed in DSM-IV nor is it recommended by mainstream ethical and professional mental health associations.[2]


  • Terminology 1
  • Research 2
  • Professional guidelines 3
  • Legal issues 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


The term false-memory syndrome was coined between 1992 and 1993 by psychologists and sociologists associated with the child sexual abuse.[4] These researchers argue that RMT can result in patients recalling instances of sexual abuse from their childhood that did not actually occur.[2] While not a therapeutic technique in and of itself, RMT generally is applied to such methods as hypnosis, age regression, drug-assisted interviewing (using substances such as sodium amytal), and guided visualization.[5] While practiced by some individual therapists, these techniques were never recognized by the psychiatric or psychological community, and are generally not practiced in mainstream treatment modalities.[6]

According to Charles L. Whitfield, while advocates of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation lump all therapies that deal with recovery of trauma memories into one category, regardless of past efficacy, they only attack a few of them.[7] An inquiry by the Australian government into the practice found little support for or use of memory recovery therapies among health professionals, and warned that professionals had to be trained to avoid the creation of false memories.[8] In October 2007, Scientific American published an article critical of recovered memory therapy and dissociative identity disorder diagnoses, especially in relation to the Satanic ritual abuse moral panic.[9] The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation responded by criticizing the article for using the terminology "recovered memory therapy," which they claim is a straw man for a non-existent modality, and for its skeptical view of dissociative disorder diagnosis.[10] Despite the lack of such a coherent method or training—the term sometimes crops up not only in the popular press but also in government inquiries, court proceedings, and position statements from psychologists' professional associations.[11][12][13]


A range of studies have concluded that at least 10% of physical and sexual abuse victims forget the abuse.[14][15][16] The rate of delayed recall of many forms of traumatic experiences (including natural disasters, kidnapping, torture and more) averages among studies at approximately 15%, with the highest rates resulting from

  • Memory controversies at DMOZ
  • Answers to questions about recovered memory by the American Psychological Association
  • is an online database of research, articles, books and more on all things related to repressed and recovered memories.

External links

  • Ofshe, Richard and Watters, Ethan. Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, And Sexual Hysteria. University of California Press; Reprint edition, 1996, ISBN 0-520-20583-9.
  • Loftus, Elizabeth and Ketcham, Katherine. The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse. St. Martin's Griffin 1st edition, 1996.
  • Lilienfeld, Scott. "Psychological treatments that cause harm." Perspectives on Psychological Science, Volume 2(1), pp. 53–70, 2007.
  • Knopp, Fay Honey (1996). A Primer on the Complexities of Traumatic Memory of Childhood Sexual Abuse – A Psychobiological Approach. Brandon, VT: Safer Society Press.  
  • Pope, Kenneth S., KS (1996). "Memory, Abuse, & Science: Questioning Claims about the False Memory Syndrome Epidemic".  
  • Pendergrast, Mark, Victims of Memory (1993), ISBN 0-942679-18-0

Further reading

  1. ^ Lief, Harold I (November 1999). "Patients Versus Therapists: Legal Actions Over Recovered Memory Therapy". Psychiatric Times XVI (11). 
  2. ^ a b c Whitfield, CL; Silberg JL; Fink PJ (2001). Misinformation Concerning Child Sexual Abuse and Adult Survivors.  ; pages 55-56.
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Dallam, Stephanie J. (2001). "Crisis or Creation: A Systematic Examination of 'False Memory Syndrome'". Journal of Child Sexual Abuse (Haworth Press) 9 (3/4, pp. 9–36). 
  5. ^ Greene, Edith; Wrightsman, Lawrence S.; Nietzel, Michael T.; Fortune, William H. (2002). Psychology and the legal system. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.  
  6. ^ Wood, Ellen Meiksins; Wood, Samuel H. (1999). The World of Psychology. Boston, Mass: Allyn & Bacon.  
  7. ^ a b Whitfield M.D., Charles L. (1995). "Christine Courtois". Memory and Abuse – Remembering and Healing the Effects of Trauma. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc. p. 313.  
  8. ^ Australian Health Services Commissioner (2005). "Inquiry into the practice of recovered memory therapy" (PDF). Office of the Health Services Commissioner. pp. 78–82. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  9. ^ Lambert, K; Lilienfeld SO (2007-10-01). "Brain Stains". Scientific American. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  10. ^ Executive Council, International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (2007-11-30). "Letter to Scientific American, Inc. Editor and Chief" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  11. ^ a b c "Executive summary" (PDF). ]Disputed memories [Omstreden herinneringen (PDF). The Hague: Health Council of the Netherlands. 2004-01-27.  
  12. ^ a b "Legislative Assembly, 22 November 1995, Full Day Hansard Transcript, Hansard". 1995-11-22. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  13. ^ a b ACA Newsletter Spring 2004 Draft position statement on RMT page 109
  14. ^ Widom, Cathy Spatz; Morris, Suzanne (March 1997). "Accuracy of Adult Recollections of Childhood Victimization: Part 2. Childhood Sexual Abuse.". Psychological Assessment (Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association) 9 (1): 34–46.  
  15. ^ Sheflin, Alan W; Brown, Daniel (1996). "Repressed Memory or Dissociative Amnesia: What the Science Says.". Journal of Psychiatry & Law 24 (Summer): 143–88.  
  16. ^ Widom, Cathy Spatz; Shepard, Robin L. (December 1996). "Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization : Part 1. Childhood physical abuse". Psychological Assessment (Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association) 8 (4): 412–21.  
  17. ^ a b van der Kolk, M.D., Bessel (March 1, 1997). "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Memory". Psychiatric Times. 14 (3). 
  18. ^ a b c Williams LM (December 1994). "Recall of childhood trauma: a prospective study of women's memories of child sexual abuse". J Consult Clin Psychol 62 (6): 1167–76.  
  19. ^ Hopper, Jim. "Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse Scientific Research & Scholarly Resources". Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  20. ^ Sharon C. Wilsnack, Stephen A. Wonderlich, Arlinda F. Kristjanson, Nancy D. Vogeltanz-Holm, Richard W. Wilsnack. "Self-reports of forgetting and remembering childhood sexual abuse in a nationally representative sample of US women". Child Abuse & Neglect 26 (2, February 2002, Pages 139–147).  
  21. ^ Lilienfeld, SO (2007). "Psychological Treatments That Cause Harm". Perspectives on Psychological Science 2 (1): 53–70.  
  22. ^ Ofshe, Richard; Ethan Watters (1994). Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria. Charles Scribner's.  
  23. ^ Loftus, E; Davis D (2006). "Recovered Memories" (PDF). Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 2: 469–98.  
  24. ^ a b Pope, KS (1998). "Pseudoscience, Cross-examination, and Scientific Evidence in the Recovered Memory Controversy". Psychology, Public Policy, and Law (American Psychological Association) 4 (#4): 1160–1181.  
  25. ^ Rogers, Richard (2008). Clinical Assessment of Malingering and Deception, Third Edition. New York: The Guilford Press.  
  26. ^ Summit, R. (1983). "The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome.". Child Abuse & Neglect 7 (2): 177–193.  
  27. ^ a b Chu, J; Frey L; Ganzel B; Matthews J (May 1999). "Memories of childhood abuse: dissociation, amnesia, and corroboration.". American Journal of Psychiatry 156 (5): 749–55.  
  28. ^ Brandon, S.; Boakes, J.; Glaser, D.; Green, R.; MacKeith, J.; Whewell, P. (1997). "Reported recovered memories of child sexual abuse: Recommendations for good practice and implications for training, continuing professional development and research". Psychiatric Bulletin 21 (10): 663–665.  
  29. ^ "Australian Hypnotherapists Association Code of Ethics: Guidelines for AHA Members working with clients in contexts in which issues related to false memories of childhood sexual abuse may arise" (PDF). Australian Hypnotherapists Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 30, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  30. ^ Ogloff, JRP (1996). Guidelines for psychologists addressing recovered memories (PDF).  
  31. ^ Jeffrey A. Mullins (1996). "Has Time Rewritten Every Line?: Recovered-Memory Therapy and the Potential Expansion of Psychotherapist Liability". Washington and Lee Law Review 53 (2): 763–802. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  32. ^ "Ground Lost: The False Memory/Recovered Memory Therapy Debate, by Alan Scheflin, Psychiatric Times 11/99, Vol. XVI Issue 11". Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  33. ^ Richard A. Leo (1997). "The Social and Legal Construction of Repressed Memory". Law & Social Inquiry 22 (3): 653–693.  
  34. ^  
  35. ^  
  36. ^ Gustafson, Paul. Jury awards patient $2.6 million: Verdict finds therapist Humenansky liable in repressed memory trial. Minneapolis St. Paul Tribune, August 1, 1995.
  37. ^ Pam Belluck (November 6, 1997). "Memory Therapy Leads to a Lawsuit and Big Settlement". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2007. 
  38. ^ Guthrey, M. and Kaplan, T., 2nd Patient Wins Against Psychiatrist: Accusation of planting memories brings multi-million dollar verdict. St. Paul Pioneer Press, Jan. 25, 1996, 4B.
  39. ^ "£20,000 payout for woman who falsely accused her father of rape after 'recovered memory' therapy Daily Mail UK 2007". 2007-10-20. 


See also

In the UK, a woman who said she had falsely accused her father of rape successfully sued the hospital and psychologist who had treated her with what she described as a form of RMT and was awarded a large out-of-court settlement.[39]

Several court cases awarded multi-million dollar verdicts against Minnesota psychiatrist Diane Bay Humenansky, who used hypnosis and other suggestive techniques associated with RMT, resulting in accusations by several patients against family members that were later found to be false.[36][37][38]

Recovered memory therapy was an issue in the criminal trials of some Catholic priests accused of fondling or sexually assaulting juvenile-turned-adult parishioners.[34][35]

A degree of controversy does remain within legal circles, with some holding the view that therapists and courts should consider repressed memories the same as they consider regular memories. Three relevant studies state that repressed memories are "no more and no less accurate than continuous memories." [32][33]

Discussing RMT in the New South Wales Parliament in 1995, the state Minister for Health, Dr Andrew Refshauge – a medical practitioner – stated that the general issue of admissibility of evidence based on recovered memories was one for the Attorney General.[12] In 2004 Australian Counselling Association issued a draft position statement regarding recovered memories in which it informed its membership of possible legal difficulties if they affirm accusations as true based solely upon discussion of a patient's recovered memories, without adequate corroborating evidence.[13]

In Ramona v. Isabella, Gary Ramona sued his daughter's therapist for implanting false memories of his abuse of her. In the first case putting recovered memory therapy, itself, on trial, he eventually was awarded $500,000 in 1994.[31]

Legal issues

  • In the Brandon Report, a set of training, practice, research and professional development recommendations, the United Kingdom's Royal College of Psychiatrists advised psychiatrists to avoid use of RMT or any "memory recovery techniques", citing a lack of evidence to support the accuracy of memories recovered in this way.[28]
  • In 2004, the government of the Health Council of the Netherlands issued a report in response to inquiries from professionals regarding RMT and memories of traumatic child sexual abuse.[11] The Health Council stated that while traumatic childhood experiences were major risk factors for psychological problems in adulthood, most traumatic memories are well remembered but can be forgotten or become inaccessible though the influence of specific circumstances precludes a simple description of the relationship between memory and trauma. The report also notes that memories can be confabulated, re-interpreted and even apparently vivid or dramatic memories can be false, a risk that is increased when therapists use suggestive techniques, attempt to link symptoms to past trauma, with certain patients and through the use of methods to stimulate memories.[11]
  • The Australian Hypnotherapists Association (AHA) issued a similar statement, for contexts where false memories of child sexual abuse may arise. The AHA acknowledges that child sexual abuse is serious, damaging and at least some memories are genuine, while cautioning that some questioning techniques and interventions may lead to illusory memories leading to false beliefs about abuse.[29]
  • The Canadian Psychological Association has issued guidelines for psychologists addressing recovered memories.[30] Psychologists are urged to be aware of their limitations in knowledge and training regarding memory, trauma and development and "that there is no constellation of symptoms which is diagnostic of child sexual abuse". The guidelines also urge caution and awareness of the benefits and limitations of "relaxation, hypnosis, guided imagery, free associations, inner child exercises, age regression, body memory interpretation, body massage, dream interpretation, and the use of projective techniques" and special caution regarding any legal involvement of memories, abuse and therapy.

There are several individuals and groups that have published guidelines, criticisms or cautions about recovered memory therapy and techniques to stimulate recall:

Professional guidelines

A study at the Dissociative Disorders and Trauma Program of the McLean Hospital concluded that recovered memories are mostly unconnected to psychotherapeutic treatment and that memories are often corroborated by independent evidence, often appearing while home or with family and friends, with suggestion being generally denied as a factor in recovering memories.[27] Very few participants were in therapy during their first memory recovery and a majority of participants in this study found strong corroboration of their recovered memories.[27]

Some patients later retract memories they had previously believed to be recovered. While false or contrived memories are possible reasons for such retractions, other explanations suggested for the retraction of allegations of abuse made by children and adults include guilt, a feeling of obligation to protect their family and a reaction to familial stress rather than a genuine belief that their memories are false.[26] The number of retractions is reported to be small compared to the actual number of child sexual abuse allegations made based on recovered memories.[7]

Studies by Elizabeth Loftus and others have concluded that it is possible to produce false memories of childhood incidents.[23] The experiments involved manipulating subjects into believing that they had some fictitious experience in childhood, such as being lost in a shopping mall at age 6. This involved using a suggestive technique called "familial informant false narrative procedure," in which the experimenter claims the validity of the false event is supported by a family member of the subject. The study has been used to support the theory that false memories of traumatic sexual abuse can be implanted in a patient by therapists. Critics of these studies argue that the techniques do not resemble any approved or mainstream treatment modality,[24] and there are criticisms that the implanted events used are not emotionally comparable to sexual abuse.[18][25] Critics contend that Loftus's conclusions overreach the evidence.[18][24]

A review article on potentially harmful therapies listed RMT as a treatment that will probably produce harm in some who receive it.[21] Richard Ofshe, a member of the advisory board to the FMSF, describes the practice of "recovering" memories as fraudulent and dangerous.[22]

A 1996 interview survey of 711 women reported that forgetting and later remembering childhood sexual abuse is not uncommon; more than a quarter of the respondents who reported abuse also reported forgetting the abuse for some period of time and then recalling it on their own. Of those who reported abuse, less than 2% reported that the recall of the abuse was assisted by a therapist or other professional.[20]

[19] Hopper cites several studies of corroborated abuse in which some abuse victims will have intervals of complete or partial amnesia for their abuse.[18] Williams found that among women with confirmed histories of sexual abuse, approximately 38% did not recall the abuse 17 years later, especially when it was perpetrated by someone familiar to them.[17]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.