Sunday, November 3, 2019

Trauma and Profit

       Experts in psychology, psychiatry, legal and journalistic professions have
carefully researched   memory based therapies  and found them to create memories unsupported by the evidence.   Accusers often retract stories after the social circles that encouraged and supported the false memories dissipate.  In the early 2000's the courts realized that memory based therapies were creating a glut of wrongful convictions.  Legal reversals and settlements in favor of the falsely accused mounted.  Therapies based on eliciting tales of past horrid events subsided though are still used by the uninformed or ill informed.  In 2008 Dr. McHugh, a former Chair of Psychiatry at John Hopkins, predicted that a new wave of false diagnosis and therapies using the idea of "traumatization" and "victimhood" would emerge. Ten years later his dire predictions were realized.  

Why Use Tragedy Producing Therapy?
        The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry published an article by numerous reputable psychiatrist in the US, Canada and England.   The article detailed how therapists surveyed in the United States and Canada hold incorrect views about memory and are as a result using dated therapies approaches that induce harmful outcomes.  A naive public, therapists and a highly influential but misguided entertainment media unknowingly perpetuate memory myths and the resulting damaging therapy.  Observation confirms that profit props up harmful memory based therapy and propagates poor outcomes.  How is this so?  
       Memory based therapies often use suggestion with vulnerable (often mentally ill)  clients. Thus this therapy does in fact generate memories of events that never happened.  There are numerous benefits to such psuedomemories for therapists.  Civil actions can enrich the accuser for false accusations.  The therapist now gets a richer serving a client able to afford more therapy. The therapist helps the client "dig up memories" of events that never happened.  The resulting emotional tumult extends the treatment and increases the total income for the therapist.   The profit motive props up those who practice what expert therapists know is  fraudulent mental health treatment.
        The client may have a variety of personal motives for the false memories that are written about and documented.   If the claims of abuse are "credible" and the presentation is convincing then there civil lawsuits that can win the client hundreds of thousands of dollars.  False memories implanted in children gain advantage in custody cases.  There is also the use of "victimhood" to garner sympathy and access to monetary assistance not otherwise available. You-Tube channels revealing "trauma" and websites seeking monetary support.  The client can directly profit monetarily by recounting false memories in a convincing fashion.   Sympathetic viewers unknowingly support the fraud.
         Lawyers on all sides experience additional opportunities for income.  Child custody disputes are common and lucrative.  Civil actions based on "repressed memories" from 10-70 years old can be the source of huge amounts of cash in civil settlements.  Institutions and wealthy families wanting to keep such talk suppressed fear such accusations and remain secluded.  Those falsely accused face the possibility of decades behind bars for false accusations so the stakes are high.   Lawyers on both sides of the contentious emotional controversies generated by poor therapies have clients willing to give up all assets to defend themselves.  The result is litigation that generates lucrative financial rewards all the lawyers involved.
        Expert witnesses that include forensic psychologists and medical doctors trained in "abuse" have a chance for bonus paydays.  It seems ludicrous but experts in trauma will use "poor memory" to substantiate the validity of claims.  The less accurate the details then the more traumatic the event.  A major defense of the accused historically is to cite the inconsistencies of recollections but with the new unproven science the inconsistent and inaccurate memory is now seen as proving the accuser correct.  Experts can then be called in to substantiate that "inconsistent and unreliable memory" validates the memory of trauma.  The innocent and accused then have little to no rational defense for an accuser believed because the story is errant and changing.  The innocent but falsely accused facing such "experts" must then hire "experts" who can help maintain that the accusations are based on truly errant memory.  More experts to sort out if the testimonies are reliable or relevant.  The high stakes and heightened emotions contribute to the increased income for experts who can bolster the accusers claims.
      "Child advocates" who work for institutions can justify a fully paid position that can protect the institution  with "safe policies" and determine when "accusations are credible" .  There are no policies that will ever stop false memories and the resulting false accusations but it does not matter.   This is a full time position.  The more accusations that require official action then the greater the impact and importance of the "child advocate".    So the advocate is enhanced by claiming as many false suspicions and false accusations as "credible" whether possible, impossible, true or not.  A lack of physical evidence assists in justifying a full-time staff person who benefits financially and professionally from more accusations whether true or false .
       "Child Protection Services" professionals experience growth and advancement when the load of cases they elect to take on increases.  Confirmation bias is known to be rampant as everyone in the system realizes they are needed more than ever if they confirm another accusation by every person with "memories" of  abuse. What is even more sad is when the child protection service is directly corrupted for money and as well as increasing departmental budgets and personal advancement in order to "protect innocent children".  Who would be against that?
      Detectives act quickly to become heroes and advance careers.  The greater the number of cases they present with convincing testimony the greater the need of their department.  The department is then given more resources and personnel to help more of those who "remember abuse".
      Prosecutors can benefit professionally in a number of ways.  Prosecutors know that highly emotional child abuse cases, even if the victim is an adult claiming to be a child,  quickly garner the sympathy of juries.  The convictions often need no expensive physical analysis of evidence (because they have none)  and are both cheap and fast.  This helps the "conviction rate" and shows the competence of the prosecutor as they are able to put more people in prison.  Their next reelection in assured with higher rates of cheaply obtained convictions and more declared criminals in jail (based on false memories).  Personal financial security, increased resources and professional resume building are the result of successful prosecution rates when emotionally charged cases needing little or no physical evidence are so easily and quickly convicted.
     "You Tube Counseling" sites have attractive, personable, vibrant emotive presentations describing repressed memories, trauma and dissociation with the associated ads, booklets and accounts available for subscription with special information.  They avoid the hundreds and hundreds of replicated studies debunking the errant memory myths but they will accept your views, clicks and money with bizarre tales of abuse that never happened. 
      Political influence can use traumatic false memories of abuse to destroy a candidate for any position.  Supreme court nominees can suddenly face scrutiny and false suspicions and hordes of angry partisans if someone can step up and generate an "memory" from 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago.  Details of the candidates life (often quite public) can allow for creation of moments and locations of possible contact.   Students can get even with teachers using traumatic memories and false accusations that depicts the teacher as a sexual predator .  Priests can find themselves disowned, with no legal representation and tossed to the side after decades of service to their church based on an accusation that is unsupported by evidence, bizarre but still deemed "credible".   Accusations are an easy way to dispense with a person who you do not like for professional, personal or political reasons.  In the case of "childhood trauma" with the evidence bar so low for "credible accusations" unsubstantiated accusations can be very useful. 
       The financial and political pay offs of a system that encourages and protects false accusations are quite significant for clients using false accusations and the professionals who represent those clients.

Are there any Helpful Therapies?
         There are helpful therapies and approaches to mental  health that have clear evidence based outcomes which verify improvements in patients.  These improvements in treatments have accelerated immensely since the ground breaking book called The Broken Brain by Nancy Andreason who is Psychiatrist with both a Medical Doctorate and a Ph.D.
       Dr. Andreason points out that most of the psychological struggles people have are related to physiological issues affecting the brain that are untreated.  Hallucinations, delusions, mania and despondency can all created with a variety of physiological problems.  She goes much further.  Dr. Andreason thinks that all of the mental health and psychological issues can be treated with somatic techniques that include medications and focus on physiological health.  Incredible results occur when a competent psychiatrist helps a patient or client regain occupational functioning, emotional stability and healthy family relationships.
       Somatic treatment need not be limited to medication.   A new breed of  counselors are now "naturopaths" and medical doctors who understand the metabolic impacts of nutrients.  Nutrients can also help those with psychological or mental health issues.  Abram Hoffer was a psychiatrist, and Medical Doctor with a Ph.D. who wrote, researched and practiced using a combination of somatic treatments and therapy to help those who were struggling with mental illness and psychological challenges.   His work was groundbreaking and he frequently was thwarted in his attempts to change the focus of his profession from psychotropic medication alone to therapy involving medication, nutritional supplements (such as niacin) and forward looking cognitive based therapy.
       Cognitive based therapy is the only therapy associated with positive outcomes despite the person who is using it and is recommended by those who carefully track outcomes.  In this form of therapy the client is challenged to think in new ways about what afflicts them.  It encourages more productive strategies to solving personal problems and  by adapting new strategies for making sound decisions, setting realistic personal goals and focusing on the present and the immediate future.  Cognitive based therapy has no need for recalling, imagining or creating trauma in order to "free" the client. A therapist that uses this approach exclusively will lose patients frequently because the patients implement to strategies, their lives improve and the client no longer needs "therapy".  Cognitive therapy fosters client indepence without blaming and repeated recollections of trauma.  The result are clients that move on and spend less on the therapist.  

Further Reading:

American Psychological Association. 2001. Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

Baker, Robert A. Hidden Memories: Voices and Visions From Within (Buffalo, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 1992.).

Crews, Frederick. (1997). Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute. New York Review of Books Reprint Edition.

Dawes,Robyn M. Everyday Irrationality : How Pseudo Scientists, Lunatics, and the Rest of Us Systematically Fail to Think Rationally (Westview Press, 2001).

Erwin, Edward. (1995). A Final Accounting: Philosophical and Empirical Issues in Freudian Psychology. MIT Press.

Gardner, Martin. (2006). "The Memory Wars."Skeptical Inquirer. Part 1 is in vol. 30 no. 1, parts 2 and 3 are in vol. 30 no. 2.

Goldstein. Eleanor C. (1992). Confabulations: Creating False Memories, Destroying Families. Sirs.

de Rivera, Joseph. "'Trauma searches' plant the seed of imagined misery," The Sacramento Bee, May 18, 1993.

Hallinan, Joseph T. "Money for repressed memories repressed," Sacramento Bee, Jan. 12, 1997, Forum.

Johnson, M.K. et al. "Source Monitoring,"Psychological Bulletin, 114, 3-28.

Johnston, Moira. Spectral Evidence: The Ramona Case: Incest, Memory, and Truth on Trial in Napa Valley (Westview Press, 1999).

Loftus, Elizabeth and Katherine Ketcham. The Myth of Repressed Memory (New York: St. Martin's, 1994).

Mullen Paul E. and Jillian Fleming. 1998. "Long-term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse"

Ofshe, Richard and Ethan Watters. Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria (New York: Scribner's, 1994).

Pendergrast, Mark. Victims of Memory : Sex Abuse Accusations and Shattered Lives 2nd ed. (Upper Access Book Publishers, 1996).

Schacter, Daniel L., editor, Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past(Harvard University Press, 1997).

Schacter, Daniel L. Searching for Memory - the brain, the mind, and the past (New York: Basic Books, 1996).

Singer, Margaret Thaler and Janja Lalich. Crazy Therapies (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1996). Review of "Crazy" Therapies

Tavris, Carol. "Hysteria and the incest-survivor machine," Sacramento Bee, Forum section, January 17, 1993.

Wakefield, Hollida and Ralph Underwager. Return of the Furies - An Investigation into Recovered Memory Therapy (Peru, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Co., 1994).

"Debunking Myths About Trauma and Memory," (2005). Richard J. McNally, Ph.D. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 50, No 13, November.

My review of Crazy Therapies by Singer & Lalich

Twelve Myths about False Memories

Mass Media Funk: Study shows the longer one is in RMT, the more disabled one becomes

Statements by Professional Organizations on recovered memory therapy

"Truth or invention: exploring the repressed memory syndrome" excerpt from The Myth of Repressed Memory by ElizabethLoftus and Katherine Ketcham

"Remembering Dangerously" by Elizabeth Loftus

False Memory Syndrome Foundation WWW Page

Recovered Memories or Modern Witch Hunt? by Douglas E. Hill

Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memory Syndrome by John Hochman, M.D.

"First of All, Do No Harm" A Recovered Memory Therapist Recants An Interview With Robin Newsome By Mark Pendergrast

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance: repressed memory therapy page

"Recovered Memories of Abuse: Assessment, Therapy, Forensics," By Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., ABPP and Laura S. Brown, Ph.D., ABPP

"Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse: Scientific Research & Scholarly Resources" By Jim Hopper, Ph.D.

Lisa Nasseff claims therapist Mark Schwartz brainwashed her A woman is suing a St. Louis therapist, claiming he hypnotized her into falsely believing she had been a part of a satanic cult, had multiple personalities, and had taken part in satanic rituals.

Back to Salem: Paul Shanley and the Return of "Recovered Memory" by Alexander Cockburn

Exonerating the Friedmans by Chris Mooney


  1. the pseudo-science of psychiatry claims people's memories are pseudo-memories. The next time someone tells you that their psych meds are balancing their brain chemistry asked them, "when did you doctor measure your brain chemistry?" pseudo-science.

  2. If the psychiatrist asks you about memories then the psychiatrist is surely practicing a pseudo-science like many uninformed counselors do. We know a patient personally who was in psychosis. Her doctor did a full blood panel (4 pages of data), urine analysis and trace metal assay (both serum and hair). She was then then treated with an anti-psychotic medication. Following medication that person said she stopped having hallucinations and no longer remembered things that she thought happened when she was in psychosis (and getting poor counseling.) The trace metal analysis showed copper toxicity (among other things). That condition is now being treated and she has improved. The outcome is a continuing decline in anti-psychotic medication. No need for pseudoscience recovered memory therapy and no need to create memories of things that never happened. She is a lucky patient to have a doctor who does real science. I do agree there are psychiatrists/doctors that are not scientists. These professionals guess and do little or no real physical analysis. Many are still in the dark ages of the 1900s and even earlier. That is why you get informed and make the right choice. Your comment reads like you may need one. Good luck!