To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Nov 7 16:17:49 1994 +quot;Editorial from The Therapist, Journa
Date: Nov 7 16:17:49 1994
"Editorial from The Therapist, Journal of the European Therapy Studies
Institute, Vol 2, No. 3 Autumn 1994.
Some therapists are 'making monsters' (Note: this refers to an article in
the Therapist by Richard Ofshe) by offering recovered memory therapy. Yet
organisations like the British Psychological Society, United Kingdom
Council for Psychotherapy and the British Association of Counsellors have
dragged their feet in responding to the need for guidelines in this area.
There is no excuse for this.
Since the 1950's, techniques of influence have been researched and the
findings extensively published. The wealth of information on the ease
with which it is possible to change beliefs and memories can be found in
publications ranging from the most thorough scientific papers to widely
available paperbacks on human behaviour. Any competent psychologist
understands the implications of this information and can explain and
discuss it - as can many lay men and women. The quality of the research
findings are not in question. So why are the various professional
'working parties' looking into the issue taking so long to produce
The answer seems to be that, in the name of scientific debate, some of the
people on these working parties are defending 'territory' - protecting
their belief systems - rather than showing urgent concern for people
suffering the consequences of recovered memory 'therapy'. Indeed, issues
of belief are really what the delay is all about rather than attempting to
be objective about correlating what is already known about human
suggestibility and memory.
Professor John Morton, chairman of the British Psychological Society's
working party on recovered memories says, "Until we understand more, snap
judgements are not helpful." That's true enough for anybody who is not
expert in a subject. But surely someone in his position should be an
expert. This is not an area where little is known. Dithering is not a
helpful ploy to those families suffering the consequences of the dangerous
reovered memory cults. There is an enormous amount of information
available on techniques of influence and memory that form a base from
which to move quickly forward to reasonable guidelines.
Furthermore there is no need to carefully examine implausible, and
certainly unprovable, hypotheses like the existence of "body memories" or
whether or not memories go right back to birth and beyond. These are
issues of belief, not fact. It should be instantly clear to any competent
working party that belief in such notions is potentially dangerous. These
are not harmless beliefs like astrology. If a therapist believes in body
memories, for example, he or she is likely to see any physical pain or
feeling in his client's body as 'evidence' of trauma or abuse. Yet some
members of the UKCP working party believe in the existence of body
memories and are concerned with defending that belief in their writings
about recovered memory.
Once a group of professionals, commit themselves to a view, for example
believing that recovered memories of satanic abuse is a real problem that
should be taken at face value, it is difficult for them to move from that
position in the light of new evidence. (This happened with those who
worked with Valerie Sinason of the Tavistock Institute. They were swept
along by the passion and sincerity of people claiming to have been
involved in such practices and came to believe that there is such a thing
as satanic abuse. Careful research has shown that there is no such abuse
- only belief in it.) This tendency does not help.
The families suffering devastation from therapeutic malpractice, and
concerned therapists everywhere, can't wait for ever while these
organisations catch up. The European Therapy Studies Institute revealed
guidelines in May. They are now published. It is folly to re-invent the
Ivan Tyrrell and Barry Winbolt.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank