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Recovered memory therapy (RMT)

Statements by professional
organizations during 1997

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Statements after 1997 are recorded elsewhere

1997-JUN: UK:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists had created a Working Group on Reported Recovered Memories of Child Sexual Abuse". Their report was approved by the College's council on 1997-JUN-24, and published in the Psychiatric Bulletin later that year. 8

An article, "Reported recovered memories of child sexual abuse," was published in their association's journal Psychiatric Bulletin on 1997-OCT-1. 1 The Group expressed concern that:

"... the growth of litigation against alleged perpetrators and therapists and the risk of bringing the profession into disrepute makes it necessary to alert psychiatrists to the possibility of 'false memories.' ... A 'false memory' is one which is not based on events which have occurred."

"Memories are constantly forgotten and recovered, but we are here concerned with the alleged forgetting and recovery of memories of prolonged and repeated child sexual abuse, typically from childhood into adolescence. Concern about recovered memories which have no factual basis should be concentrated on those cases where patients report having had no memory whatsoever of abuse which continued over many years.

In the United States concern about such recovered memories led to the use of the term False Memory Syndrome which, though misleading, has now gained wide usage.

Under the subheading "Recommendations for good practice" the article stated:
 
bulletIn children and adolescents ... previous sexual abuse in the absence of [continuous] memories of these events cannot be diagnosed through a checklist of symptoms."
 
bullet"Psychiatrists are advices to avoid engaging in any 'memory recovery techniques' which are based upon the expectation of past sexual abuse
of which the patient has no memory. Such 'memory recovery techniques' may include drug-mediated interviews, hypnosis, regression therapies, guided imagery, 'body memories', literal dream interpretation and journaling. 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."
 
bullet"Memories, however emotionally intense and significant to the individual, do not necessarily reflect factual events."
 
bullet"Although there are doubts about the validity of diagnoses of dissociative identity disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder) it is asserted by some that this condition is frequently associated with a history of childhood sexual abuse. There seems little doubt that some cases of multiple personality are iatrogenically determined and psychiatrists should be careful to ensure that they do not directly encourage patients to develop 'alters' in whom they may invest aspects of their personality, fantasies or current problems. Any spontaneous presentation of dissociative identity disorder should be sympathetically considered but should not be made the subject of undue attention, nor should the patient be encouraged to develop further 'multiples.' Psychiatrists should be particularly aware of the unreliability of memories reported in
these cases."
 
bullet"Postgraduate psychiatric trainees should have ...instruction on the dangers of suggestion and suggestibility, and a keen awareness
that opinions and prejudices in the therapist may have a profound effect upon their patients. They should also understand how to minimize possible adverse effects of such influences." 1

1997-OCT: Netherlands:

Dr. Peter van Koppen, legal expert and psychologist at the Netherlands Study Center for Criminality and Law Enforcement issued a report on recovered memory therapy in 1997-OCT. It is titled: "Recovered Crimes: About Accusations of Sexual Abuse Made after Therapy." The report was commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Justice after over 500 court trials involving recovered memory therapy resulted in only one conviction! Dr. van Koppen recommends that police only make arrests of alleged perpetrators after the RMT therapist is interviewed and if supporting testimony is obtained. He notes that there has been no empirical proof for the existence of repressed memories; he recommended that professional organizations condemn RMT.

References:

  1. Sydney Brandon, et al., "Reported recovered memories of child sexual abuse. Recommendations for good practice and implications for
    training, continuing professional development and research," Psychiatric Bulletin, 21 (10), Pages 663 to 665 at: http://pb.rcpsych.org/cgi/

Copyright 1996 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2009-AUG-20
Prepared by: B.A. Robinson

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