Recovered Memory Therapy (RMT)
Brief history & current status
Brief history of RMT:
Even though the efficacy and safety of RMT had never been evaluated, it was
enthusiastically embraced by tens of thousands of therapists during the 1980s
and early 1990s. It was only in the late 1990s that a near consensus
emerged that most of the "memories" created by this experimental were unrelated
to real events, and that RMT indirectly causes massive harm to the clients and
their families of origin.
The potential for injury to patient/clients and their families of
origin is particularly serious, because these recollections often involved childhood
sexual abuse. The life of the client often becomes focused on the alleged
abuse. Tens of thousands of American families, and thousands of Canadian
families are often devastated by the allegations. However, it can get worse.
About 17% of clients progress to the next level of horror. They develop
recovered memories of childhood ritual abuse, and of Satanic
ritual abuse. These memories often resulted in major emotional disability as the
client becomes unable to function as a friend, spouse, parent or worker.
Massive financial judgments arising from lawsuits
against recovered memory therapists have persuaded most to abandon this
form of therapy. However, some recovered memory therapy (RMT) still
goes on. The mental health of clients and their families of origin continue to be destroyed,
but at a diminished rate.
During the year 2002, at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, a team
of panelists declared the RMT controversy dead. But they said that
psychiatrists still need to help the main victims of RMT: those falsely
accused of heinous crimes which never happened. 1
Elizabeth F. Loftus & Deborah Davis wrote:
"While much of the public now thinks that the repressed memory carnage is
over, in fact, it is not. The number of new cases has dramatically declined and
numerous alleged victims have recanted their accusations or reestablished ties
without saying they were wrong. However, many of the afflicted families are
still estranged, many proponents of repressed-memory therapy remain angry, and
more than a few innocent people remain imprisoned, convicted of crimes that did
not occur. Legal cases involving testimony about repressed memories continue to
wreak havoc on the lives, emotions and bank accounts of hundreds of individuals."
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) commented in 2003-JAN:
introductory psychology textbooks include a section on false memories. Scholarly
articles and media documentaries about false memories are readily available.
Only a few new families contact the FMSF with reports of recent accusations, and
many families are now concerned with reconciliation or exoneration."
Current status of RMT:
Opinions of the validity of these "memories" vary:
||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 are generally
unrelated to past events. They are often called "false memories." Recovered memory therapy is an effective
way of transferring the general abuse beliefs of therapists into their
clients' thought processes without either being aware of the process. The
are as close to representing real events in the past as are
||A small minority of therapists still view recovered memories as
actual, accurate recollections of real events from the past, the memory
of which had been repressed. They believe that if a client has what
appears to be a memory, that it must be substantially accurate.
||A small percentage of victims of RMT have been able to reunite with
their families. "C.J." is one. She has allowed her letter of apology and
explanation to be published on the Internet. 4
Steve Perlstein, "Recovered memory dead, not gone, panel says,"
Clinical Psychiatry News, 2002-AUG-01, Page 26.
Elizabeth F. Loftus & Deborah Davis, "Dispatch From the
Repressed-Memory Legal Front," Psychiatric Times, Vol. XIX Issue 4,
- FMS Foundation Newsletter, Volume 12, #1, 2003-JAN/FEB.
"A Daughter Returns," Impact newsletter, 2003-OCT, at:
Copyright © 1996 to 2007 by
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-NOV-11
Author: B.A. Robinson