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Recovered Memory Therapy — Does it help clients?


Dr. Tana Dineen, in Manufacturing Victims: What the Psychology Industry is doing to People, states:

"…rather than being the best suited to evaluate therapy, Psychologists and their clients are the most biased and the least able to answer the following:

  • Is therapy effective?

  • Is it better than friendship?

  • Do higher paid professionals do a better job than minimally trained counsellors?

  • Does training and experience improve a therapist's skill?

  • Is therapy always helpful and safe?

  • Do professionals know more about human nature than the rest of us?

  • Would people naturally get worse without professional treatment?

Dr. Dineen indicates that the "over-riding answer to all of these questions," based on scientific studies — of which she provides ample evidence — is:

NO! [original emphasis]

She qualifies that "NO" as being a warning and not to mean to imply that all professional psychologists are ineffective or that all therapy is a scam, but that, rather than to take the psychology industry's claims at face value, an informed decision must be made to evaluate its merits. [page 154]

Dr. Dineen then proceeds to provide example after example of instances of concerns expressed by workers in the field who state that therapy can be and often is harmful, with some stating that "therapy is harmful as often as it is helpful, with an average effect comparable to receiving no help." [page 160]

On page 161 she indicates the results from a study done of a population of randomly selected patients, a group of 183 selected cases out of 670 repressed memory claims that were filed in Washington State under the Crime Victims Act from 1991-1995.  According to a letter from Loftus, Grant, Franklin Parr and Brown in which the findings of a "preliminary profile" of these case were reported:

97% of the patients were female.

97% were Caucasian, with their ages ranging from 15 to 67 years, with a mean of 43 years.

All patients were fairly well educated.

50% of them had been working in the health-care industry.

87% of the clients had their first "memory" surface during therapy.

According to claims made, the first abuse occurred at an average age of 7 months.

100% were still in therapy three years after the first memory surfaced.

60% were still in therapy five years later.

Suicidal ideation or attempts by patients increased by a factor of 6.7 during therapy, from 10% to 67%.

Hospitalization of patients increased by a factor of 5.5 during therapy, from 7% to 37%.

Self-mutilation increased by a factor of 8, from 3% to 27%.

Employment of the patients decreased by a factor of 8.3 during therapy, from 83% to 10%.

Engagement in marriages decreased by a factor of 1.92 during three years of therapy, from 77% to 40.9%.

During three years of therapy, 48% of those who had been married became either divorced or separated.

23% of the clients had lost custody of minor children during three years of therapy, and

100% of the clients were estranged from their extended families.

97% contended that they had been abused in satanic rituals and that their parents or other family members were involved in the ritual abuse.

Of those latter:

76% remembered birth and infant cannibalism.

76% remembered consuming body parts.

69% remembered being tortured with spiders.

100% remembered torture or mutilation (no exams were made to substantiate that injuries had indeed occurred).

A most remarkable aspect of therapy mentioned in the letter was that "the average cost of a mental health claim under the Crime Victim Compensation Program that did not involve repressed memory was $2.672," whereas "the average cost for the 183 repressed memory claims was dramatically higher: $12,296."  Obviously, even though the patients were harmed by recovered memory therapy, the therapists did quite well by it.

Dr. Dineen concludes that section of her book [page 164] by calling the disregard of scientific principles employed by therapists an "...enthralling dance of the patient and therapist, each responding to the moves and sways of the other and each believing that they are getting somewhere together.  But when the music stops, the dance is over and therapy is finished, the most likely conclusion is that they aren't much farther ahead, that they are about where they began, with both just a little tireder and one a little (or a lot) poorer and the other a little (or a lot) richer."

How much poorer were the taxpayers on account of the cases of the clients analyzed in the study that Dr. Dineen quoted from?  According to Dr. Elizabeth Loftus:

"The total cost to the Crime Victims Compensation Program for this group of 30 repressed memory claims was $2,533,000."

—  False Memory Syndrome Foundation Newsletter, Vol 5 No. 5, May 1, 1996, http://www.fmsfonline.org/fmsf96.501.html

That's just the cost to the tax payers of Washington State, costs that were accounted for under the Crime Victims Compensation Program.  In addition to the harm done to the "clients," what was the true cost to them, to their employers, to their relatives, children and friends, to their health care insurance schemes, and, last but not least, the overall cost to the economy and to society?


From a web site focused on recovered memory therapy:

Overview:

Recovered memories are the focus of a twenty-year old controversy which is only now subsiding:

  • Some therapists view recovered memories as actual, accurate recollections of real events from the past, the memory of which had been repressed.
  • Essentially all memory researchers, all of the major mental health therapists' associations and most therapists now believe that the "memories" are images created during therapy which may or may not resemble events of the past.

The potential for great harm to patient/clients and their families of origin is obvious, when the subject of these recollections are childhood sexual abuse, ritual abuse, and Satanic ritual abuse.


Although the cult of recovered memory appears to be subsiding and "evidence" of recovered memeories is no longer admissible in some courts (e.g. the U.K.), for some of the tens of thousands of families that were destroyed by it — even though some, as in the Wenatchee allegations, received judgments awarding them as much as three million dollars in compensation, of which they most likely never see a cent — the damages done to them will never be undone.  Some of the victims of the devastating modern witch hunt of child sexual- and satanic ritual abuse are still in prison.

The Boston Herald
August 12, 2001 Sunday ; Pg. 026

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

A scandal continues

The cynical manipulation by the Middlesex County prosecutor's office of the child witnesses against Gerald Amirault who are now young adults makes it depressingly clear that the office of prosecutor is intended by its occupants to serve their political ambitions and not the cause of justice ("Amirault victims come out of hiding to keep him jailed," Aug. 3). Martha Coakley and her cohorts and precursors know full well that children who were 3, 4 and 5 years old at the time of the Fells Acres trials some 15 years ago - 15 years filled with constant reassertions by prosecutors and parents of the validity of the original claims - do not, cannot and will not ever be able to have untainted memories of their experiences. Hauling these innocent young people out for a press conference was disgraceful.

These children were victims of politically ambitious and woefully ignorant prosecutors who chose to disregard the coercive interrogations by the inexperienced graduate student assigned to dig the "truth" out of the children, to ignore bizarre claims that defied all rationality (e.g. sodomy with lobsters and knives) and to close their eyes to the utter lack of substantiating physical evidence.

- Margaret A. Hagen,
 Department of Psychology
 Boston University

Margaret A. Hagen is the author of Whores of the Court: The Fraud of Psychiatric Testimony & the Rape of American Justice (1997); Regan Books-Imprint of Harper-Collins: San Francisco, Hardcover - 352 pages 1 Ed edition (March 1997) HarperCollins; ISBN: 0060391979


See also:

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Updates:
1999 07 29
2000 07 16
2001 02 10 (format changes)
2001 04 06 (added reference to FMS)
2001 08 14 (added reference to Amirault case)