To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Sun, 4 Dec 94 21:35 EST (c) The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dec.

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From:!!aaron (Aaron Larson) To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Sun, 4 Dec 94 21:35 EST (c) The San Diego Union-Tribune, Dec. 1, 1994 Foes assail repressed-memory therapy By Mark Sauer The psychotherapist once was stereotyped, in Woody Allen movies and elsewhere, as maddeningly noncommittal: "I have this recurring nightmare, doctor. A wolf wearing an apron and carrying a butcher knife comes through my window meaning to murder me in my sleep. What do you think it means?" "Hmmm. I don't know. What do you think it means?" Certain therapists who practiced such detached neutrality discarded it about 10 years ago because they believed they had made an astonishing discovery: Dark memories of sexual abuse and even satanic blood orgies -- of trauma so vast it was capable of splintering minds -- could be unlocked using a new technique called "recovered-memory therapy." Trouble was, the discovery was a devastating hoax, said Richard Ofshe. "It's rare when you find a mistake this stunning," said Ofshe. "Think of all the horrors that can befall us in this world, of people who are ripped apart in accidents or struck down by painful and terminal illnesses. This mental-health quackery has destroyed countless people and families, and it is 100 percent avoidable." Ofshe, a professor of psychology at the University of California Berkeley, is an expert on tactics of coercion. He shared a Pulitzer Prize 15 years ago for helping to expose possible criminal activity within the controversial Synanon drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation program in California. On the attack has made himself the national attack dog against what he calls the "Alice-in-Wonderland world" of therapists who make lucrative livings by mining "hypnotically generated images, gut feelings, dreams and imaginings as valid memories." Ofshe, who will air his views here tomorrow at a therapists' conference at the Marriott Hotel in Mission Valley, is unyielding in the debate raging within psychology over the validity of repressed memories and Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). The phenomenon of therapists planting tales of abuse in the minds of vulnerable clients grew out of the "genuine societal concern about sexual abuse" emerging in the early 1980s, Ofshe said. "With that kind of social ferment and pressure to change, there will always be an opportunity for charlatans and quacks and flimflam artists to pick up the theme and run with it," he said. The well-chronicled and surprisingly virulent national argument over the validity of repressed-memory therapy is thoroughly explored in Ofshe's new book, "Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy and Sexual Hysteria." In it, the professor sets up various repressed-memory leaders -- psychiatrists Lenore Terr and Judith Herman, author Ellen Bass, self-styled MPD expert Colin Ross, even feminist Gloria Steinem -- as people of straw and knocks them down one at a time. (Neither Terr nor Bass replied to a request for a comment.) Supporters of repressed-memory therapy contend that childhood sexual abuse is so traumatic that the mind often buries the memory for years, causing myriad mental-health problems later in life. An extreme manifestation is MPD, in which the mind supposedly shatters into several distinct personalities to cope with the trauma, supporters say. Ofshe (who co-authored the book with Ethan Watters) insists there is no room for middle ground in the debate. "The mind either has the ability to repress vast numbers of events . . . or it does not," he writes. "Multiple Personality Disorder is either a widespread pathology or, like demonic possession, a role that has been forced on vulnerable people in a misguided attempt to cure them." Although it uses a pseudonym, a concluding chapter of Ofshe's book, titled "Deaths in the Family," chronicles the case of a San Diego couple, Merry and Robert Scheck. The Schecks' 13-year-old daughter, Christy, committed suicide in March 1992 after "recovering" memories of childhood beatings and rapes by her father. The memories surfaced during treatment at the Southwood Psychiatric Center in Chula Vista. The girl hung herself with a bathrobe belt three days before she was supposed to testify against her father, according to the book. In July, Southwood settled a lawsuit filed by the Schecks for an undisclosed sum. Stating the case of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse," by renowned University of Washington memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus (with Katherine Ketcham). Published simultaneously, the books represent a powerful effort by the scientific establishment to police what the authors call the pseudo-science of repressed memories. (They have been joined recently by the American Medical Association, which stated that recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse are unreliable and "fraught with problems of potential misapplication.") By phone from Seattle, Loftus said she and Ofshe originally discussed collaborating on a book. "But we differ greatly in style," Loftus said. "Richard is very hard-hitting, he likes the slam-dunk. He's not afraid to say exactly what he thinks, and he doesn't worry about being cruel to his opponents." "I remember telling Richard, You should go way out to the end of the limb where you want to be, and I'll position myself in the middle where I want to be." "The trouble is people haven't allowed me to do that. They (critics) write and talk about us as if we're twins," Loftus added. Ofshe says that is his point precisely -- there is no middle ground. "I cherish her personal style of attempting a dialogue," Ofshe said in an interview. "But it's absolutely wrong under these circumstances. If the debate is whether the earth is round or flat, treating it like an oval does not speak to the problem. "Elizabeth Loftus has made a terrible mistake," he continued. "She's probably learned by now that in this kind of debate, one side is correct and the other is not. There is no way of averaging it out." At that, Loftus sighs and concedes there is truth in what Ofshe says. "I'm glad I made the effort, and I would like to continue the dialogue with open-minded people," Loftus said. "But many on the other side are closed-minded and nasty and so heavily compromised by ideology that they do not stop for a minute and think they may be harming people with their therapy." Loftus said some newspapers have picked "true believers" in repressed-memory therapy to review the books together, and the result has been "analysis riddled with exaggeration, error and serious misrepresentation." "I read Richard's book, and I say, 'Thank God he's here,'" Loftus said. "He deserves a lot of credit for putting out the truth in his way."


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