OCT 27 '94 AUST PSYCH SOCIETY 613 663 6177 The Australian Psychological Society Limited Gu

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OCT 27 '94 AUST PSYCH SOCIETY 613 663 6177 The Australian Psychological Society Limited Guidelines Relating to Recovered Memories A CODE OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT The Australian Psychological Society Code of Professional Conduct sets forth principles of professional conduct designed to safeguard o the welfare of consumers of psychological services o the integrity of the profession The General Principles of the Code are: I Responsibility Psychologists remain personally responsible for the professional decisions they take o Psychologists are expected to take cognisance of the foreseeable consequences of their actions and to make every effort to ensure that their services are used appropriately. o In working with organisations, whether as employees or consultants, psychologists shall have ultimate regard for the highest standards of their profession. II Competence Psychologists shall bring to and maintain appropriate skills and learning in their areas of professional practice o Psychologists must not misrepresent their competence, qualifications, training or experience. o Psychologists shall refrain from offering or undertaking work or advice beyond their professional competence. III Propriety The welfare of clients, students, research participants and the public, and the integrity of the profession, shall take precedence over a Psycho- logist's self interest and over the interests of the psychologist's employer and colleagues. o Psychologists must respect the confidentiality of information obtained from persons in the course of their work as psychologists. They may reveal such information to others only with the consent of the person or the person's legal representative, except in those unusual circumstances in which not to do so would result in clear danger to the person or to others. Psychologists must inform their clients of the legal or other contractual limits of confidentiality. o Psychologists shall refrain from any act which would tend to bring the profession into public disrepute. B GUIDELINES RELATING TO RECOVERED MEMORIES These guidelines set forth conclusions and recommendations designed to safeguard psychologists and clients who are dealing with reports of recovered memories. I Scientific Issues Memory is a constructive and reconstructive process. What is remembered about an event is shaped by what is observed of that event, by conditions prevailing during attempts to remember, and by events occurring between the observation and the attempted remembering. Memories can be altered, deleted, and created by events that occur during and after the time of encoding, and during the period of storage, and during any attempts at retrieval. Memory is integral to many approaches to therapy. Repression and dissociation are processes central to some theories and approaches to therapy. According to these theories and approaches, memories of traumatic events may be blocked out unconsciously and this leads to a person having no memory of the events. However, memories of these traumatic events may become accessible at some later time. Although some clinical observations support the notion of repressed memories, empirical research on memories generally does not. Moreover the scientific evidence does not allow general statements to be made about any relationship between trauma and memory. "Memories" that are reported either spontaneously or following the use of special procedures in therapy may be accurate, inaccurate, fabricated, or a mixture of these. The level of belief in memory or the emotion associated with the memory does not necessarily relate directly to the accuracy of the memory. The available scientific and clinical evidence does not allow accurate, inaccurate, and fabricated memories to be distinguished in the absence of independent corroboration. Psychologists should recognise that reports of abuse long after the alleged events are difficult to prove or disprove in the majority of cases. Independent corroboration of the statements of those who make or deny such allegations is typically difficult, if not impossible. Accord- ingly, psychologists should exercise special care in dealing with clients, their family members, and the wider community when allegations of past abuse are made. II Clinical Issues Psychologists should evaluate critically their assumptions or biases about attempts to recover memories of trauma-related events. Equally, psychologists should assist clients to understand any assumptions that they have about repressed or recovered memories. Assumptions that adult problems may or may not be associated with repressed memories from child- hood can not be sustained by available scientific evidence. Psychologists should be alert to the ways that they can shape the memories reported by clients through the expectations they convey, the comments they make, the questions they ask, and the responses they give to clients. Psychologists should be alert that clients are susceptible to subtle suggestions and reinforcements, whether those communications are intended or unintended. Therefore, psychologists should record intact memories at the beginning of therapy, and be aware of any possible contagion effects (e.g., self-help groups, popular books). Psychologists should be alert to the role that they may play in creating or shaping false memories. Equally, psychologists should be alert not to dismiss memories that may be based in fact. At all times, psychologists should be empathic and supportive of the reports of clients while also ensuring that clients do not jump to conclusions about the truth or falsity of their recollections of the past. They should also ensure that alternative causes of any problems that are reported are explored. Psychologists should recognise that the context of therapy is important as is the content. Psychologists should not avoid asking clients about the possibility of sexual or other abusive occurrences in their past, if such a question is relevant to the problem being treated. However, psychologists should be cautious in interpreting the response that is given. Psychologists should never assume that a report of no abuse is necessarily indicative of either repressed or dissociated memory or denial of known events. Nor should they assume that a report of abuse indicates necessarily that the client was abused. Psychologists should understand clearly the difference between narrative truth and historical truth, and the relevance of this difference inside the therapy context and outside that context. Memory reports as part of a personal narrative can be helpful in therapy independent of the accuracy of those reports. However, to be accepted as actual history, those reports should be shown to be accurate. Psychologists should seek to meet the needs of clients who report memories of abuse, and should do this quite apart from the truth or falsity of those reports. Psycholog- ists should recognise that the needs and well being of clients take pre- cedence and should design their therapeutic interventions accordingly. III Ethical Issues Psychologists treating clients who report recovered memories of abuse are expected to observe the Principles set out in the Code of Profess- ional Conduct of the Australian Psychological Society, and in the Code of Professional Conduct of the Psychologists Registrations Boards in States in which they are registered as psychologists. Specifically, psychologists should obtain informed consent at the beginning of therapy in relation to the details of the therapeutic process and its possible consequences. Psychologists should inform any client who recovers a memory of abuse that it may be an accurate memory of an actual event, may be an altered or distorted memory of an actual event, or may be a false memory of an event that did not happen. Psychologists should explore with the client the meaning and implications of the memory for the client, rather than focus solely on the content of the reported memory. Psychologists should explore with the client ways of determining the accuracy of the memory, if appropriate. Psychologists should be alert particularly to the need to maintain appropriate skills and learning in this area, and should be aware of the relevant scientific evidence and clinical standards of practice. Psychologists should guard against accepting approaches to abuse and therapy that are not based in scientific evidence and appropriate clinical standards. Psychologists should be alert also to the personal responsibility they hold for the foreseeable consequence of their actions. IV Legal Issues Psychologists should be aware that some approaches and writings concerning abuse and recovered memories urge clients to engage in legal action against the alleged abuser and any others who may question the accuracy of any recovered memories. Psychologists should recognise that their responsibilities are to the therapeutic needs of clients, and not to issues of legal action or revenge. Given that the accuracy of memor- ies cannot be determined without corroboration, psychologists should use caution in responding to questions from clients about legal action. Psychologists should be aware that their knowledge, skills, and practices may come under close scrutiny by various public and private agencies if they are treating clients who recover memories of abuse. Psychologists should ensure that comprehensive records are maintained about their sessions with clients who recover memories of abuse. Psychologists should in no way tolerate, or be seen to tolerate, child- hood or adult sexual abuse, or abuse of any kind. They should ensure that their psychological services are used appropriately in this regard, and should be alert to problems of deciding whether allegations of abuse are true or false. They should be alert especially to the different demands and processes of the therapeutic and legal contexts in dealing with such allegations. V Research Issues Psychologists should be aware that research is needed to understand more about trauma-related memory, techniques to enhance memory, and techniques to deal effectively with childhood sexual abuse. Psychologists should support and contribute to research on these, and related, issues whenever possible. _Note_ These guidelines have been adapted from: McConkey,K.M., & Sheehan,P.W. (in press) "Hypnosis, Memory, and Behaviour in the Forensic Setting" New York: Guildford Press. Tel: McConkey 02 385 3034 612 385 3034 Sheehan 07 365 3917 617 365 3917 from outside Australia


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