the legal profession have carefully examined the "memory recovery techniques" and the idea of "repressed memories" since the 1990's. Below are a few of the comments by the most widely recognized experts (each expert is credited with over 100 peer reviewed publications). Legal experts in criminal law (US Federal courts) and civil lawyer (who also has a doctorate in psychology) are also quoted.
A respected research team including Steven Jay Lynne, PhD, James Evans, MS, Jean-Roch Laurence, PhD and Scott O Lilienfeld, PhD (from Emory, Harvard, Stanford and Binghampton Universities ) jointly wrote in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry (Can J Psychiatry. 2015 Dec; 60(12): 541–547) after years of research, extensive review of the literature and surveys that:
"Beliefs can create reality. To the extent that laypeople—many of whom obtain psychotherapy—and mental health professionals hold outdated and poorly supported beliefs regarding the nature of human memory, mental health consumers and their loved ones will inevitably be exposed to psychological risk. In particular, many false beliefs about memory may contribute to the use of suggestive interventions geared to the recovery of repressed memories. These techniques include repeated prompting of memories, guided imagery, and hypnosis and hypnotic and nonhypnotic age regression".
Dr. James McGaugh from the University of California, Irvine is a leading expert in the area of memory (once profiled on CBS’ 60 Minutes program.) Dr. McGaugh said in a 2010 book,
“I do not believe there’s such a thing as repressed memory. I haven’t seen a single instance in which a memory was completely repressed and popped up again." In a conversation he was quoted as saying “I go on science, not fads. And there’s absolutely no proof that it can happen. Zero. None. Niente. Nada. All my research says that strong emotional experiences leave emotionally strong memories. Being sexually molested would certainly qualify.”
Dr. Richard J. McNally is a Professor and Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University (world’s leading expert with 250 publications to his credit). In a 2005 letter to the California Supreme Court, Dr. McNally asserted:
“The notion that traumatic events can be repressed and later recovered is the most pernicious bit of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry. It has provided the theoretical basis for ‘recovered memory therapy’ — the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era.”
“Victim advocates will often vehemently complain to writers and editors of media where the truth about repressed memories is depicted. These attackers will falsely claim that there is a legitimate other side to this issue. There isn't. The public should be very aware of this. ”
Dr. Grant Devilly, from the Psychological Health research unit at Griffith University (an expert in trauma and memory) says (in 2005) that
"Memories of terrifying experiences work in the opposite manner of repressed memory theory. People rather wish they could forget their traumatic experiences. It’s the opposite. They wish they couldn’t think about it.”
Dr. Elizabeth Loftus (University of California Irvine) has done many hundreds of peer reviewed psychological studies over the last three decades some of which are considered "landmark cases" in the field of memory. She is a highly sought after expert witness and author of numerous books and articles which have been cited by courts at the highest state and national levels. She has won numerous awards for her courage and integrity. Dr. Loftus has personally witnessed innocent people, often with no previous record of any type, suddenly face accusations of heinous crimes decades earlier with no physical evidence and then sued, legally harassed and sometimes imprisoned. She shares insights based on her knowledge and experience:
"...In real life, as well as in experiments, people can come to believe things that never really happened."
"...Just because someone thinks they remember something in detail, with confidence and with emotion, does not mean that it actually happened, False memories have these characteristics too."
"...You can’t be raped for 10 years and not remember it. Yet, according to the repression aficionados, anything's possible."
Dr. Chris R. Brewin in the New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry. Edited, Oxford University Press, (2000), Pages 771-774 is recognized as an authority on repressed memories and recovered memory therapy states:
"Proponents of 'recovered memory therapy' [who are true experts] are now almost impossible to find within the ranks of leading psychiatrists and psychologists...Second, good practice now requires both the therapist and the client to adopt a critical attitude towards any apparent memory that is recovered after a period of amnesia, whether or not this is within a therapeutic context, and not to assume that it necessarily corresponds to a true event."
Sydney Brandon, M.D. (Psychiatrist and researcher) in the peer reviewed British Journal of Psychiatry (April 1998, p. 302) writes:
"Despite widespread....popular belief that memories can be 'blocked out' by the mind, no empirical evidence exists to support either repression or dissociation." --
Dr. Richard Ofshe, a social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley who has extensively researched and written numerous books, articles and peer reviewed studies on the subject of "repressed memory" stated in 1997:
"Recovered memory therapy will come to be recognized as the quackery of the 20th century."
Dr. Daniel Schacter (Professor of Psychology at Harvard University):
"the phenomenon of memory repression, and the process of therapy used in these cases to recover the memories, have not gained acceptance in the field of psychology, and are not scientifically reliable." (quoted in 1996).
The quotes above were gleaned from respected researchers who have done or been involved in thousands peer reviewed studies at accredited institutions. The quotes below are by lawyers, judges or investigators that have been involved in extensive hearings, cases or investigations of events involving alleged "repressed memories".
Rulings by legal experts in the 2nd Federal Circuit Court overturned all convictions and plea bargains that use "repressed memories" in 2010. That ruling was allowed to stand by the Supreme Court. In that ruling the justices stated
"...Popular memory recovery procedures included hypnosis [including entranced states, blackouts and flashbacks], age regression, dream interpretation, guided abuse-related imagery, use of photographs to trigger memories, journaling, and interpretation of symptoms as implicit memories. These procedures and others commonly employed have great potential to induce false memories. Hypnosis, for example, has been shown to produce bizarre and impossible memories, including memories of ritualistic satanic abuse, memories from early infancy, memories from past lives, and memories from the future. The prevailing view is that the vast majority of traumatic memories that are recovered through the use of suggestive recovery procedures are false....."
Dr. Barden has a doctorate in psychology and is a lawyer with numerous large judgments against institutions that once used "repressed memories" to treat patients. Dr. Barden states
"Reform efforts have intensified...as thousands of U.S. families were destroyed by increasingly bizarre psychotherapies. The most damaging of these quack treatments involved the controversial and unscientific notion of "repressed memories" of childhood abuse. Using well known methods of brainwashing and coercion, irresponsible and often disturbed therapists convinced thousands of vulnerable patients that they had been horribly abused as children."
Alan Gold, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association in Canada says
"Repressed memories (recovered memories) are joining electroshock, lobotomies and other psychiatric malpractice in the historical dustbin."
Respected researcher and journalist Rebecca Meiser, states
"...memories, by nature, are fluid and malleable, easily influenced by suggestion. People told they were abused eventually believe that they were, regardless of fact. The mind creates a visual picture of the abusive act. And if a person is surrounded by others who encourage her to draw out these pictures and details, this new memory can become even more vivid than an actual remembrance. To complicate things further, the brain starts creating emotional responses to these memories, which seem to validate the claims even more."
So how is this "myth" still harming? While lawsuits have driven this fraudulent practice out of insured and responsible therapies there are still marginalized practices and religious "prayer" methods that assume "repressed memories" to be true (such as Theophostic Prayer Ministry or popular books on the topic that enrich the authors). Many uninformed are sought out for profit. There still remains money making books, training programs and texts that assume repressed memory to be true.
The idea that we have repressed memories also means there could also be repressed memories of alien abductions, of past lives as eagles, of being a roman soldier, or of the future (as reported by some) as well as having been repeatedly and brutally raped by a relative. These false stories are still with us despite the science, the data or the law. I doubt if you read this far you put much credence in those types of "repressed memories". Why would people still think these are possible?
Three major factors feed this beast that STILL destroys families: (1) there is still money to be made using the myth of "repressed memories" (2) false memories are so easily nurtured in so many different ways (even without the intention of doing so by the ignorant or uninformed practitioner or "prayer partner") and finally (3) bad decisions that lead to personal setbacks are easier to live with if you can blame someone else. The saddest thing is that the "healing" or "cure" means many new innocent victims.
Dr. McNally summarizes the above comments well:
“Repressed memory therapy is the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era. Victim advocates will often vehemently complain to writers and editors of media where the truth about repressed memories is depicted. These attackers will falsely claim that there is a legitimate other side to this issue. There isn't. The public should be very aware of this. ”
BOOKS ON MEMORY BASED THERAPIES