The American Medical Association (AMA) stated in 1993, that recovered memories are
"of uncertain authenticity which should be subject to external verification. The
use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of potential misapplication." 1
The American Psychiatric Association stated in 1993 that it is impossible to
distinguish accurately between true and false memories. 2 They stated:
"Memories also can be significantly influenced by a trusted person (e.g., therapist, parent involved
in a custody dispute) who suggests abuse as an explanation for symptoms/problems, despite
initial lack of memory of such abuse." In addition, they stated "While
aspects of the alleged abuse situation, as well as the context in which the memories
emerge, can contribute to the assessment, there is no completely accurate way of
determining the validity of reports in the absence of corroborating information."
The report of the Council on Scientific Affairs of the AMA concluded and
recommended on 1994-JUN-16:
"1. That the AMA recognize that few cases in which
adults make accusations of childhood sexual abuse based on recovered memories can be
proved or disproved and it is not yet known how to distinguish true memories from imagined
events in these cases."
The Australian Psychological Society Ltd. stated in its Guidelines Relating
to the Reporting of Recovered Memories on 1994-OCT-1:
"Given that the
accuracy of memories cannot be determined without corroboration, psychologists should use
caution in responding to questions from clients about pursuing legal action.
... The available scientific and clinical evidence does
not allow accurate, inaccurate and fabricated memories to be distinguished in the absence
of independent corroboration."
The American Medical Association revisited the topic in 1994, and stated:
"It is well established for example that a trusted person such as a therapist can influence an
individual's reports, which would include memories of abuse....The AMA considers the
technique of 'memory enhancement' in the area of childhood sexual abuse to be fraught with
problems of potential misapplication."
The American Psychological Association created an APA Working Group On
Investigation of Memories of Childhood Abuse to investigate recovered memories. It was composed of 3 memory researchers and 3 clinicians (including 2 who
practiced recovered memory therapy). Surprisingly, they were able to agree
on certain statements. In a 1994 interim report
Most people who were sexually abused as children remember all or part of what happened
However, it is possible for memories of abuse that have been forgotten for a long time
to be remembered. The mechanism(s) by which such delayed recall occur(s) is/are not
currently well understood.
It is also possible to construct convincing pseudo memories for events that never
occurred. The mechanism(s) by which these pseudo memories occur(s) is/are not currently
The APA Board of Directors enlarged upon the Working Group's interim statement by
"There is no single set of symptoms which automatically means that a person was a
victim of childhood abuse."
Therapists must take a neutral position on childhood abuse memories.
The public should beware of a therapist who diagnoses childhood abuse at the start of
therapy in the absence of evidence and memories
Beware of therapists who "dismiss claims .... of sexual abuse without
Select a licensed practitioner with "with training and experience"
The British Psychological Society has issued a booklet "Recovered
Memories" which states:
Complete or partial memory loss of childhood sexual abuse is frequently reported.
Recovery of such memories is frequently reported.
All adult memories of childhood events may contain errors.
"Sustained pressure" by a therapist could lead to recovery of "memories
of events that never actually happened."
People no longer debate whether therapy-induced false memories and recovery of memories
from total amnesia actually occur. Debate is currently directed at how often they occur.
The Michigan Psychological Association approved a position paper titled "Recovered
memories of sexual abuse". It was adopted by the Executive Council on
1995-MAY-17. It reads in part:
"In summary, given the meager and conflicting scientific data regarding the
validity of reported recovered memory of sexual abuse, the Michigan Psychological
Association at this time does not support the modification of any existing statutes of
limitations in respect to civil and criminal complaints stemming from such reported
recovered memory. Given the nature of the scientific evidence to date, there is
substantial potential for harm in treating claims of recovered memories of sexual abuse
presumptively valid. We must await the accumulation of pertinent and scientifically valid
research on this issue before recommending the routine or uncritical acceptance of
recovered memory in the absence of corroborative evidence."
Mel Sabshin, MD, the Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Association
condemned "past life therapy" as quackery:
"The American Psychiatric
Association believes that past life regression therapy is pure quackery. As in other areas
of medicine, psychiatric diagnosis and treatment today is based on objective scientific
evidence. There is no accepted scientific evidence to support the existence of past lives
let alone the validity of past life regression therapy."
The American Psychological Association prepared a brochure in
1995 titled "Questions
and Answers about Memories of Childhood Abuse". 4
They report that some
clinicians believe that repression and recovery of memories of traumatic childhood events is
But they also say that: "Many researchers argue, however, that there is
little or no empirical support for such a theory."
They further state that recovered memories are possible, but rare: "there is a consensus among memory
researchers and clinicians that most people who were sexually abused as children remember
all or part of what happened to them."
AMA Wary of Using 'Memory Enhancement';
AMA, Report of the
Statement on Memories, American Psychiatric Association (1993)
Recovered Memories, British Psychological Society, (#163 10),
available from: The British Psychological Society, St. Andrews House, 48 Princess Road
East, Leicester, LE1 7DR, Great Britain.
"Questions and Answers about
Memories of Childhood Abuse," Brochure by the American Psychological Association,
Copyright 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2009-AUG-20
Prepared by: B.A. Robinson
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