Katharine Mair, a retired clinical psychologist sets out to highlight the dangers of recovered memory therapy also known as RMT and regression therapy , a branch of psychotherapy which presumes issues such as bulimia, depression and difficulty’s around sexual intimacy may stem from repressed memories of being abused in childhood.
Mair points out the regression techniques don’t uncover forgotten or subconsciously repressed abuse; they actually contribute to clients developing false memory syndrome, where they believe they have been abused by family members which can have destructive effects on family relationships.
(Harold Merskey 1998) in a paper published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists describes beginnings of the term False Memory syndrome:-
‘False Memory Syndrome (FMS) first came in to use in 1992 with the foundation of the false memory foundation. A non profit making organisation established in America by a group of families who were accused’
The book cites a number of cases where families have been devastated by accusations of abuse by individuals who have undergone RMT.
She also goes on to debunk the myth of Satanic Ritual Child Abuse which caused a moral panic in the 1990’s leading to high profile investigations in Rochdale and the Orkney Islands which saw children removed from families by social services , individuals arrested .
After a wide ranging and in depth investigation, no evidence of satanic or any other form of abuse was uncovered , however the investigation was triggered by social workers who had interpreted innocent childhood remarks as evidence of repressed memories of satanic child abuse after receiving training in repressed memory syndrome
The message from this book is clear; a therapist who actively searches out childhood abuse using regression techniques on clients, such as hypnosis may very find what they are looking for, however, whether the events remembered, are actually a true account is a completely different question and research would indicate that memories recovered in this way are most likely to be inaccurate.
To conclude I was very impressed with this book, particularly Mairs meticulous attention to detail in the research and the accessible writing style; however I was slightly bemused to see a Wikipedia article in the reference list, with that exception the references are both robust and extensive.
At no point does Mair negate, diminish or deny the impact of childhood sexual abuse, what she does do very effectively, is ask us as therapists to consider very carefully the interventions we use and work with what the clients brings not to our own agenda.
I would strongly encourage both therapists and students to buy this book, in particular any therapist who has attended any Dissociative Identity Disorder training, should read chapter 3 “ The strange history of dissociative disorders” which provides an interesting and powerful counterpoint to the information given in some of these training courses.
‘Abused by Therapy’ by Katharine Mair is available from Troubadour publishing in a hard copy for £10.99 or as an ebook download for £5.99. available from:-http://www.troubador.co.uk/book_info.asp?bookid=2288
I would like to thank Troubadour for the review copy.